Ex-Nueva Esperanza chief’s embezzlement charge called ‘political’

  • Former Holyoke City Councilor Nelson Roman is seen at the December 2018 council meeting, when he resigned from the council. Image from City Council video

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2019 3:52:16 PM

HOLYOKE — The lawyer for a former city councilor and former executive director of Nueva Esperanza who is charged with embezzlement stemming from his time working at the community organization is calling the accusation “political.”

Nelson Roman was charged in Holyoke District Court on Nov. 15 with one count of embezzlement of $250 or more, which his attorney, Daniel D. Kelly, said comes from accusations that Roman had stolen or misappropriated funds and equipment from Nueva Esperanza. The embezzlement charge is specific to people who work at a voluntary association or society.

“I just think it’s inappropriate,” Kelly said when reached by phone on Saturday. “He’s a good guy, he didn’t do this. We have the documents to show that. It’s political.”

Holyoke Police began investigating Roman around the time he announced his resignation as a Ward 2 city councilor and his intention to leave Holyoke at a City Council meeting in December 2018, according to a March MassLive article. Authorities said in the story that they were looking at Roman’s tenure at Nueva Esperanza and whether certain expenditures were legitimate. Roman, who left to take a job in Chicago, was appointed as Nueva Esperanza’s permanent executive director in June 2018, MassLive reported.

Although news first broke of the investigation into Roman in March, Kelly said, he did not have the opportunity to sit down with authorities until several months later.

“When we met with them, we had minutes and emails showing that a lot of the things the police department said he was doing wrong he had the authorization to do,” Kelly said.

Rosa Pantoja, president of Nueva Esperanza’s board of directors, said in the March MassLive article that the organization’s board had confronted Roman about “questionable transactions” during his time as executive director and had contacted police.

When reached Saturday, Holyoke Police Lt. James Albert said the department would not comment on the case until after Roman’s arraignment, which is set for Dec. 11.

According to filings with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, Roman was paid $17,838 by Nueva Esperanza from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

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