Ex-NYU finance director charged with embezzling millions

Cindy Tappe, who worked at NYU until 2018, stole millions of dollars by funneling money through shell companies. She now faces multiple felony charges.

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Kiran Komanduri

Ex-NYU finance director Cindy Tappe — who worked at the university’s Metro Center in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development — is facing multiple felony charges for siphoning millions during her time at the university. (Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

Carmo Moniz and Tori Morales

Cindy Tappe, NYU’s former director of finance and research, is facing multiple felony charges after she was found to have redirected millions of dollars in New York state education grants to shell companies over the span of six years. Tappe, who left NYU in 2018 after the university reported her activities to the New York State Education Department, has been charged with money laundering, grand larceny and four other felonies. 

Tappe stole $3.5 million in grants intended for women and minority-owned businesses, and rerouted $3.3 million to two shell companies — High Galaxy Inc. and PCM Group Inc. Tappe kept over $660,000 for personal purchases, including renovations to her home in Connecticut and the construction of an $80,000 pool, according to Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.

“Cindy Tappe used her high-ranking position at NYU to divert more than $660,000 in state funds to companies she controlled to fund a lavish lifestyle,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement on Dec. 19. “I thank my Division of Investigations and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their work uncovering her wrongdoing and making her answer in court.”

During her time at NYU, Tappe worked at a nonprofit in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development called the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation of Schools — also known as the NYU Metro Center. The center’s several programs seek to promote educational equity within and beyond the university, providing services including teacher training, literacy programming and research opportunities.

NYU was given $23 million by New York state between 2011 and 2018 to fund two programs through the Metro Center — one to support English language learners in schools and another to improve special education programs. A percentage of these funds was required to be distributed to women and minority-owned businesses, who would use the money to support the program’s activities. 

Tappe created false invoices for subcontractors, who submitted the forms and were paid a percentage of the stolen funds without doing the contracted work. She funneled the rest — around $3.4 million — into her shell companies and used it to reimburse employees without NYU’s oversight. 

NYU discovered Tappe’s fraudulent activities after the university implemented a new electronic payment system in 2018. Due to suspicions of Tappe’s activities, it then sent its internal audit office to investigate, according to university spokesperson John Beckman. Beckman said that NYU has cooperated with the agencies involved in the case since reporting Tappe to authorities.

“We are deeply disappointed that an employee abused the trust we placed in her in this way, and we are pleased to have been able to assist in stopping this misdirection of taxpayer money,” Beckman told WSN.

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected] and Tori Morales at [email protected]