MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Four men were convicted Tuesday of electronically stealing $5.7 million from Columbia University by scamming the Ivy League school's accounts payable system.
After two days of deliberations a jury found the men — George Castro, Jeremy Dieudonne, Walter Stephens, Jr., and Joseph Pineras, a Columbia employee, guilty of grand larceny and other related charges.
The scheme, aided by two Columbia accounts payable employees, involved siphoning more than $5 million over six weeks from the university by manipulating information related to Columbia's bill-paying system, prosecutors said. The money was then transferred into the accounts of Dieudonne, Castro and Stephens, Jr.
But the men have argued that they weren't to blame — claiming the cash just appeared in their accounts.
"The money just appeared in my account,” Castro, 49, told authorities at the time, according to the complaint. “I got greedy. I bought the car with money from the account and made other purchases.”
Prosecutors saw things differently, alleging the men rerouted Columbia payments meant for New York-Presbyterian Hospital two years ago into a bank account of a tech company created by Castro, a computer expert and the alleged ringleader of the scheme.
When police arrested Castro, a Bronx resident, in November 2010, he was caught with $200,000 in cash and an $80,000 Audi.
The four are slated to be sentenced on September 24th. They face up to 25 years in prison.