A former finance director at New York University was convicted Monday of orchestrating a six-year fraud scheme in which she diverted more than $660,000, intended for women- and minority-owned businesses, for personal expenses in her Connecticut home and for an $80,000 swimming pool, prosecutors said.

Cindy Tappe, 57, of Westport, Connecticut, who served as director of finance and administration for NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation of Schools, pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and is expected to be sentenced on April 16 to five years probation and to provide $663,209 in restitution.

“Cindy Tappe shamelessly used her high-ranking position at NYU to steal more than $660,000 in state funds,” said state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office conducted the investigation with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr.

Tappe's “fraudulent actions,” Bragg said, “not only threatened to affect the quality of education for students with disabilities and multilingual students, but denied our city’s minority and women owned business enterprises a chance to fairly compete for funding.”

Deborah Colson, Tappe's Manhattan-based defense attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.

From 2011 to 2018, the state Education Department awarded NYU's Metro Center $23 million to administer programs that help school districts improve results for English language learners and to address disproportionality in funding for special education, records show. A percentage of those funds were required to be awarded to certified minority and women owned business enterprises.

Tappe arranged for three MWBE subcontractors to receive $3.35 million in services related to the grants but none of the companies performed work on the contracts, authorities said.

Instead, the firms functioned as pass-throughs, officials said, taking between 3% and 6% of the invoice amounts as “overhead” and sending the remainder of the money to two fictitious shell companies created by Tappe, officials said.

A portion of the funds were then used to pay legitimate grant-related expenses and employee reimbursements. But Tappe also used the shell companies to steal more than $660,000 for personal expenses, including home renovations, living expenses and a new swimming pool, prosecutors said.

The scheme was discovered by an NYU program director who reported the theft to authorities. 

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