Former NYU finance director pleads guilty to $3 million fraud scheme

Feb 27, 2024, 9:20 AM | Updated: 12:46 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — A former finance director at New York University has pleaded guilty to a more than $3 million fraud scheme that authorities say helped fund renovations to her home in Connecticut.

Cindy Tappe, 57, of Westport, Connecticut, used her position at the Manhattan school to divert money intended for minority and women owned businesses, the offices of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a joint statement Monday.

Tappe pleaded guilty Monday to grand larceny and has agreed to five years probation and $663,209 in restitution, according to the offices.

“Her fraudulent actions not only threatened to affect the quality of education for students with disabilities and multilingual students, but denied our city’s minority and women owned business enterprises a chance to fairly compete for funding,” Bragg said in a statement.

Bragg and DiNapoli’s offices say Tappe improperly routed $3.3 million to two shell companies she created while serving as director of finance and administration for NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation of Schools.

Some of the diverted funds were used to cover NYU-related expenses, including employee reimbursements, but more than $660,000 was used to pay for Tappe’s personal expenses, including renovations to her home in Connecticut and an $80,000 swimming pool, the offices said.

The diverted funds were related to $23 million in state Education Department grants awarded to the Metropolitan Center between 2011 and 2018, according to Bragg and DiNapoli’s offices.

Tappe’s lawyer Deborah Colson said her client has accepted responsibility, “strongly regrets her misconduct” and plans to pay the required restitution in full prior to her sentencing on April 16.

“After that, she looks forward to putting this case behind her,” Colson said in a statement.

NYU said Tuesday that its internal audit office had investigated Tappe and turned over its findings to state officials, leading to the criminal charges.

“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,” university spokesperson John Beckman wrote in an email. “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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Former NYU finance director pleads guilty to $3 million fraud scheme