[Fox Business] Former NYU, Yale official pleads guilty to stealing money meant for equity programs

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An academic equity official has pleaded guilty to embezzling millions from New York University and using the money for personal expenses and an $80,000 pool at her luxe Connecticut home from funds that were supposed to go to women and minority businesses.

Cindy Tappe, 57, pleaded guilty Monday, according to Manhattan prosecutors.

After stealing the funds, she landed a new job as operations director at the Yale School of Medicine. The Ivy League school fired her after the charges became public.

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Tappe, a former director of finance and administration at NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation of Schools, sent about $3.5 million to a pair of shell companies she controlled between 2012 and 2018, according to prosecutors and the state comptroller’s office.

Some of the money went to covering legitimate NYU payments, prosecutors said, but she spent more than $660,000 on personal items, including the pool, which can be seen behind her $1.9 million New Canaan home on Google Earth images.

“After detecting suspicious activity by Ms. Tappe when she was an employee in the Metro Center, NYU had its Internal Audit office investigate further,” said NYU spokesperson John Beckman. 

“NYU immediately furnished our auditors’ findings to the State Department of Education and the State Comptroller’s office and has cooperated fully with investigators since then.”

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The money came from a $23 million pot of state grant money that was supposed to go to programs for bilingual and special education students. The terms of the grants dictated that a percentage of it be paid to “certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises,” according to prosecutors.

Tappe diverted the stolen money to three such subcontractors using “fictitious invoices” she made herself.

The companies took a cut, then sent the money to two shell companies Tappe controlled.

“We are deeply disappointed that Ms. Tappe abused the trust we placed in her in this way; she stole from everyone – the taxpayer, the university, the people the Metro Center is supposed to help,” Beckman said. 

“NYU is pleased to have been able to assist in stopping this misdirection of taxpayer money and glad that the case has been brought to a close.”

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As part of a plea deal, she agreed to pay back the stolen money and is expected to receive a sentence of five years of probation for a single count of second-degree grand larceny.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. As part of the plea deal, additional charges for fraud, money laundering and falsifying business records would be dropped.

The judge scheduled her sentencing hearing for April 16.

Tappe’s lawyer, Deborah Colson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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