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NB's The Nyle Magazine

Monday, October 08, 2012



Published September 6, 2012

“Former Columbia University employees were found guilty of stealing $5.7 million from the university”

by Nathan’ette Burdine-Follow on Twitter@nbnylemagazine

            Good jobs with good benefits are hard to come by in today’s economy.  So whenever a person willfully loses a good job with good benefits, some began to wonder if that person is dumb, stupid, or both.  This is the case with George Castro, Mosie Jeanpaul, Joseph Pineras, Walter Stephens Jr., and Jeremy Dieudonne.  The Associated Press reported in its article “4 convicted in $6 million theft from Columbia U.” that on August 7, 2012, Castro, Pineras, Stephens Jr., and Dieudonne were found guilty of stealing $5.7M from Columbia University.  After the trial, Castro was released on a $5,000 bond and the others, with the exception of Jeanpaul, remained jailed.  According to the New York Post’s Laura Italiano’s article, “Jury selection begins for four men accused of stealing $5.7M from Columbia University,” Jeanpaul decided that a jury trial would be too much for him to bear.  So Jeanpaul decided to testify against his cohorts in exchange for the prosecutor’s deal of little to no jail time.  The others faced a jury of their peers and New York Supreme Court Justice Robert Stolz.  And as expected, Jeanpaul’s cohorts didn’t take too kindly to his deal.  The Associated Press quoted Pineras’s lawyer, Robert Anesi, as saying, “He is a thief, and he is a liar.”  However, the evidence the “thief, ”  “liar”  provided was a result of his inside knowledge about the thief ring he and his cohorts had formed.

Jeanpaul and the others had easy access to the money.  Italiano reported that Jeanpaul, Castro, and Pineras worked at Columbia University in the accounts payable department; while Walther Stephens Jr. and Jeremy Dieudonne worked as investors at a brokerage firm.  Italiano identified Castro as the leader of the pack.  Castro and his four cohorts developed a sudden case of the sticky fingers and went on a two month stealing spree during the Fall of 2010.  New York Presbyterian Hospital was the intended recipient of the $5.7 million, but Castro and his cohorts had other plans.  The three accounts payable employees changed the routing number from that belonging to New York Presbyterian Hospital, and re-routed the money to several accounts belonging to the pack. 

        According to Italiano, it took 56 payments in order to move the $5.7 million dollars.  Hence, the pack moved approximately $101,785.71 for each payment that was moved.  The money was distributed into several accounts.  The accounts included a brokerage account Stephens and Dieudonne oversaw, and Castro’s company IT and Security Solutions LLC., an account at TD Bank.  Castro also withdrew $200,000.00 in cash, purchased an $18,000.00 Audi Q7, and bought over $18,000.00 worth of Apple products.  Italiano stated in her article “Columbia ‘thieves’ argue $5.7M  just appeared in their accounts” that Stephens and Dieudonne threw over a $100,000 away into failed investments.  And for their “hard” labor, Jeanpaul and Pineras received $5000 each.

Despite the fact that Jeanpaul became a witness for the state, the other four decided that feigning ignorance was their best defense.  They stated that they were the victims of accidental money dumping.  Italiano quoted Dieudonne within the article, “Columbia ‘thieves’ argue $5.7M  just appeared in their accounts,” as saying, “I don’t understand why I’m here.  Money came to my account, to do trade, business, and that’s it.”  However, the surmountable evidence proved that it was more than accidental money dumping.  The evidence pointed to a group of individuals who were as guilty as homemade sin.  The access and knowledge the accounts payable employees had about routing and re-routing payments couldn’t be ignored.  They used the access and knowledge they had in order to re-route the payments from Columbia University to their banking and brokerage accounts, which Dieudonne and Stephens Jr. were managing.  Yet, neither Dieudonne or Stephens Jr. could answer why they failed to alert Columbia University that three of the university’s account payable employees were moving large sums of money from the university’s account to one of the employee’s, Castro, brokerage account.  The act in its self should have sent up red flags that something was not right.  But then again, red flags are ignored when someone stands to benefit from someone else’s ill will.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Scholl made it clear that the four cohorts knew why they were there, and that their argument was keen to believing that someone just “magically” made $5.7 million appear in their accounts.  According to Italiano’s article, “4 accused of stealing $5.7M from Columbia say it just ‘turned up’ in bank accounts,” Assistant District Attorney Kim Han asked the potential jurors if they would keep an extra $10,000.00 if it showed up in their bank accounts.  After Han’s slight pause, laughter from the jurors erupted and filled the courtroom.  Italiano quoted one potential juror as saying,  “Given some of the behavior of the banks in recent years, I would be tempted.”  The criminal bandits did not rebuke temptation.  And as a result, they were charged with and found guilty of grand theft larceny.  All lost their jobs and good benefits.  And now, they will lose their freedom for a specified period of time.







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