Bloomberg News

Two More Charged in $5.7 Million Columbia University Theft

June 23, 2011

June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Two more men have been charged in connection with a $5.7 million theft from Columbia University that prosecutors say redirected payments intended for a hospital.

George Castro, 48, was charged in December with sending 56 Columbia University payments for New York Presbyterian Hospital to a TD Bank account registered in the name of a company he formed, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. In a new indictment, charges of participating in the fraud were added against Walter Stephens, Jr. 65, and Jeremy Dieudonne, 46.

Castro allegedly distributed the money to bank accounts in his name, sent money to family and friends, and bought an $80,000 Audi Q7 automobile and more than $18,000 of Apple Inc. products, Vance said after his arrest in December. Castro, of the Bronx, and his company, IT & Securities Solutions LLC, aren’t affiliated with the university or the hospital, according to his statement.

None of the men was employed by Columbia, nor had the university done business with the company, a person familiar with the investigation said today. The person declined to be identified because the link to Columbia is still under investigation.

The men are charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. Castro also is charged with money laundering. If convicted of the top charges, all three face a maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years behind bars.

Stolen Property

Castro, whose bail was set at $2 million, pleaded not guilty in December to charges of grand larceny, possession of stolen property and money laundering. He hasn’t been arraigned on the superseding indictment, according to Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for Vance. Dieudonne hasn’t been apprehended, she said.

Lorin Nathan, an attorney for Stephens, said his client was arraigned and charged with grand larceny in the first degree. He said Stephens pleaded not guilty. Nathan declined to comment further. A lawyer for Dieudonne could not be located.

David Fisher, an attorney for Castro, didn’t immediately return a seeking for comment. Douglas Levy, a spokesman for Columbia, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

The case is People v. Castro, 2922/2011, New York state Supreme Court (Manhattan).

--Editors: Fred Strasser, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Freifeld in New York at kfreifeld@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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