Former NYU admin charged with orchestrating $3.5 million fraud scheme

A former New York University finance director is said to have allegedly siphoned $3.5 million in state funds and blown some of the money on herself — including an $80,000 pool for her Connecticut home, prosecutors said Monday .

Cindy Tappe, 57, was accused of diverting New York State Education Department grant funds to shell companies via a six-year plan that was discovered when she left NYU in 2018, according to Manhattan prosecutors.

Some of the embezzled money went toward expenses related to grants or reimbursements for NYU employees — but at least $660,000 ended up in Tappe’s own pockets, according to the indictment.

She reportedly spent the dough on personal expenses, like the pool and renovating her home in Westport, Connecticut.

The scam began with a $23 million grant awarded to NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation, where Tappe worked, with the money going to government programs to support special education teachers and English learners.

Cindy Tappe
Cindy Tappe, 57, has been charged with diverting funds.
Stephen Hirsch
Cindy Tappe
She reportedly spent the money on personal expenses, including a pool and renovations on her home.
Stephen Hirsch

A percentage of the funds had to go to “certified minority- and women-owned companies,” which would then administer the programs, prosecutors said.

Tappe allegedly arranged for three such subcontractors to receive around $3.5 million in grants. She then prepared fake invoices for each of them on company letterhead — which allowed her to funnel much of the money to two shell companies she founded, the prosecutor’s office said.

In September 2018, an NYU program director confronted Tappe about the alleged payments to the subcontractors.

Cindy Tappe's home in Connecticut has lots of space and a pool.
Cindy Tappe’s home in Connecticut has lots of space and a pool.
Google Earth
The scam began with a $23 million grant awarded to NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation.
Helayne Seidman

In response, Tappe stated in an email that NYU “has established good working relationships with these companies” and that it “has not found other companies that offer the same suite of services at the price,” prosecutors said.

The respected private university reported the theft to the Ministry of Education, which alerted the State Audit Office. After conducting its own investigation, the Office of the Audit Office referred the case to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pointed out, “Instead of going to needy school districts, these funds were used by Tappe to pay her mortgage, build a swimming pool, and live beyond her means.”

Cindy Tappe
Tappe allegedly arranged for three subcontractors to receive around $3.5 million in grants.
Stephen Hirsch

“Our multilingual learners and students with disabilities deserve world-class services, and those funds should have gone directly to their schools,” Bragg said.

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said, “Cindy Tappe used her senior position at NYU to divert more than $660,000 in state funds to companies she controlled to fund a lavish lifestyle.”

Tappe pleaded not guilty to a number of charges including money laundering, grand larceny, offering a false instrument and falsifying business records in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday. She was released without bail. Her attorney, Deborah Colson, declined to comment.

After leaving NYU, Tappe apparently landed a job at Yale School of Medicine — with a bio on the school’s website praising her as “outstanding in comprehensive knowledge of finance and grants and effective leadership and team building skills.” would.

NYU and Yale have not responded to requests for comment.

. Former NYU admin charged with orchestrating $3.5 million fraud scheme


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