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Suffolk County Woman Charged In Head Start Fundraising Scheme

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - A Suffolk County woman has been charged for allegedly running a fake fundraising operation and using some of the funds to buy heroin, according to police.

Ellen Burkheimer, 47, of Port Jefferson Station was arrested after a woman called 911 to report that Burkheimer was attempting to collect donations under the pretense that she worked as a representative for the federal Head Start Program. Head Start provides educational and health services to low-income families.

"It's certainly upsetting because I think all of us have a soft spot in our hearts to do good things for children," Suffolk County Police Sgt. Michael Fitzharris told WCBS 880.

Burkheimer used the money she collected to buy heroin and pay her rent and other personal expenses, according to police.

"What she was doing was seeking direct cash or other donations from these business people. It's believed that she's been perpetuating this scheme for at least a period of weeks previous to this and was receiving low levels of cash, $50 or $100 at a pop," Fitzharris said.

She has been charged with scheme to defraud, criminal possession of a forged instrument and criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument.

Burkheimer was arraigned on Sunday in Central Islip First District Court and remains in the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, police announced.

She has been arrested previously, according to police.

Detectives ask anyone with information on this scheme to call the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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