Morgue Workers In Alleged Hustle To Use City Property For Funeral Business
May 23, 2015
Two workers at a city morgue have moonlighted as funeral directors — allegedly using city time, equipment and facilities to store and handle their corpses.
Augustus Tucker, supervisor of the city Medical Examiner’s morgue in Staten Island, and fellow technician Togba Porte — both licensed funeral directors — cater to the city’s African-American and Muslim communities. As morgue techs, they learn about deaths as they occur.
“They have an inside track on bodies,” Albert Corulla, a former morgue technician, told The Post.
The city paid Tucker $49,000 last year, including $2,768 in overtime, and Porte $43,000, including $1,222 in overtime, city records show.
Tucker and Porte do not have their own facilities, but routinely stored bodies for customers inside the city’s walk-in coolers for up to months at a time, Corulla said.
Tucker, a minister with the New Life Church of Staten Island, “goes to a house to get a body, has no place to store it, so he brings it to the morgue and holds it there for however long it takes for the family to come up with the money,” Corulla said.
It’s unclear whether Tucker charges customers for storage.
Corulla said he was paid overtime on multiple occasions to staff the morgue after hours so Tucker or Porte could come to retrieve or deliver bodies. They also released bodies to each other, he said, using their own vans to transport them.
Tucker and Porte used city-owned body bags and gurneys for their customers, Corulla said.
Corulla worked in the morgue for 10 years. He was dismissed in 2012 after a dispute with a pathologist and was replaced as supervisor by Tucker. His appeal is in arbitration.
“I took pride in my work, and it bothered me to watch people benefit from death and violate the public and families’ trust,” he said.
The city Department of Investigation has “substantiated the allegations” and referred the matter to other authorities.
The Web site for Augustus’ Funeral Services promises “affordable, low cost” funerals and compassionate care. It says Tucker was born in Liberia and survived 10 years of civil war before emigrating with his family.
Reached at the phone number listed by his business, Tucker refused to discuss how he juggles his jobs. The business lists its address as 28 Eltingville Blvd., which happens to be the John Vincent Scalia Home for Funerals. Owner John Scalia said Tucker does not use the facilities, but only the address, to register with the state.
Porte, 51, was ousted as vice president of DC Council 37 Local 420 in 2013 after three women accused him of unwanted sexual advances, according to news reports.
Porte has a business incorporated as Funeral Service by Togba under the address of Tudor Funeral Home in Staten Island. The owner said Porte simply registers at his address, and holds services in churches. Porte did not return calls for comment.
ME spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said the agency sent the case to the city’s Conflict of Interest Board “because the use of city resources and time for personal gain is never acceptable.”
Source: By Susan Edelman - New York Post