NYU Employee Swindles School To the Tune of $400,000

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New York—A university employee who is accused of falsifying expense reports in order to steal over $400,000 has been arraigned on multiple charges.

John Runowicz, 47, worked as an administrator for the chemistry department at New York University. He allegedly submitted requests for petty cash, based on receipts that he scavenged from the trash receptacles near a liquor store, from September 2003 to January 2009. He took the receipts, attached them to official NYU reimbursement forms, and claimed that they were for departmental functions.

Runowicz’s responsibilities included managing the chemistry lab resources, supervising the chemistry department’s expense reimbursements, budgetary matters and supply requisitions.

According to District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, Runowicz submitted more than 13,000 illegitimate receipts, and the total amount of his years-long swindle came to $409,000.

“None of those receipts reflected legitimate business expenses,” said Morgenthau’s office.

The case was allegedly broken by a 24-year-old New York University student, Michael Peaden, who was alerted to the scheme by a friend in a work-study position with Runowicz. The administrator apparently hired the worker to pick receipts from the trash barrel in front of a Broadway liquor store, which he then submitted as receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. Although the work-study employee had brought the questionable activity to the attention of the bursar’s office several times, they took no action. Peaden then took the information higher up the chain of university administration, prompting an internal audit.

Officials with New York University would not comment on why, despite the fact that the thousands of receipts all said “Warehouse Wines, 735 Broadway” on them, no one at the bursar’s office had ever questioned that they were being submitted for “lab supplies.”

Runowicz, who was promptly discharged from NYU after the investigation revealed his theft, faces criminal charges which include falsifying business records in the first degree, and second-degree grand larceny. He could be facing 15 years in prison if he is convicted of these charges.

A spokesperson for NYU, John Beckman, said in a statement that “the university is deeply disappointed that one of its employees would abuse the trust of our students, faculty, administrators and staff in this way.”

 

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