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NYU employee accused of stealing $409K over 5 years

By Evan Buxbaum, CNN
  • John Runowicz, 47, accused of submitting discarded liquor store receipts for reimbursement
  • Officials say Runowicz said receipts were for departmental purchases, "other functions"
  • He is accused of submitting 13,000 from September 2003 until January 2009
  • NYU "deeply disappointed that one of its employees would abuse the trust" of the school

New York (CNN) -- A New York University staffer was arraigned Wednesday in Manhattan District court, facing multiple charges stemming from what authorities say was an attempt to swindle the school out of more than $400,000 by submitting discarded liquor store receipts.

John Runowicz, 47, of New York, is accused of scavenging around a local liquor store for discarded receipts and attaching them to NYU reimbursement request forms, claiming they were used for departmental purchases and "other functions."

He worked as an administrator for the NYU chemistry department and submitted requests for petty cash based on the receipts from September 2003 until January 2009, according to District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau.

Overall, prosecutors allege Runowicz's scheme involved more than 13,000 receipts over five years and ultimately conned New York University out of $409,000.

"None of those receipts reflected legitimate business expenses," said the District Attorney's Office.

Runowicz faces numerous criminal charges, including falsifying business records in the first degree and second degree grand larceny, which could land him in prison for 15 years if convicted.

Runowicz was responsible for "managing lab resources" at New York University, which involved supervision over the chemistry department's budgetary matters, expense reimbursements, and supply requests, the district attorney said. After an internal audit this past summer shed light on Runowicz's questionable activities, the university promptly fired him and turned the case over to Morgenthau's office.

NYU spokesman 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."