COLLEGE
08/08/2012 01:25 pm ET

Four Men Convicted For Swindling Nearly 6 Million From Columbia University

Four men were found guilty yesterday of stealing $5.7 million from Columbia University by redirecting checks intended for New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Joseph Pineras, George Castro, Walter Stephens and Jeremy Dieudonne face one to three years in prison. Their sentencing is scheduled for September 24.

Pineras, who worked at the university as a clerk in accounts payable, helped Castro, Dieudonne and Stephens redirect the checks into an account Castro opened for his information technology business, registered as IT & Securities Solutions LLC. Later, they redirected checks into accounts held by Dieudonne and Stephens as well.

Prosecutors said Pineras received nearly $10,000 for his role.

Castro evidently did not conceal his newly acquired millions very well. Within weeks, his bank account jumped from less than $10,000 to over a million. He withdrew nearly $800,00 from the account to buy an Audi with an $80,000 price tag and spent $18,000 on Apple products, reported Bloomberg Businessweek.

He was arrested in November 2010 outside his home with $200,000 in his pocket. The other three men were arrested in 2011 and in early 2012.

“They definitely were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,” the jury foreman stated outside the courthouse yesterday, according to NY Daily News.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. expressed his opinion about the recent trial in a statement.

"Fraud by insiders against an institution dedicated to the public good is egregious, and will be prosecuted vigorously by this office,” he said. “Like so many cyber fraud cases my office prosecutes, this scheme was set in motion by an ‘insider,’ who made the larger theft of $5.7 million possible. I thank the jury for its diligent service and careful attention in this case.”

Prosecutors confirmed that at least $4.1 million of the $5.7 million was recovered.

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