Education

Liquor Store Bursar Fraud Case Sprinkles Glory on NYU, City

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The dailies are covering the story of John Runowicz, a former NYU
employee who allegedly bilked the university out of $409,000 by submitting
bogus receipts for reimbursement.


According to the Post, the Daily News,
and the Times,
Runowicz did so by dumpster-diving at Warehouse Wines & Spirits, retrieving
receipts of $100 or $200 at a time, and submitting them as out-of-pocket
expenses to the University’s bursar for reimbursement.


He did this 13,000 times over the course of five years before NYU officials
caught on.


It’s hard to tell who should be most embarrassed by this story.

There’s
Runowicz, who thought he could carry on his ridiculous scheme indefinitely in a kind of low-rent Madoff way. He handed the media the perfect slow-news-Christmas Eve
Eve’s story of Dickensian greed to write about. In his court appearance,
he’s also further embarrassed his family by being photographed so coifed
with hair gel that he looks like a post-makeover participant on “Queer Eye for
the Straight Guy.”


Then there is NYU, whose bursar reimbursed Runowicz thousands of times,
according to the Post, and “merely checked the math — never noticing that
each of the receipts said ‘Warehouse Wines’ at the top.”


As we ourselves
spent the better part of a decade paying NYU many tens of thousands of
dollars, we were interested to see just one reason exposed why the university
ranks as the third most expensive in the nation. We can attest that, trying to legitimately get money from the NYU
bursar — say, to get student loan money for housing processed through them
to pay your off-campus landlord — is not so easy. But NYU had no problem
paying Runowicz the six-figure sum, and “nobody looked to see that the
receipts came from a liquor store,” according to the outgoing Manhattan DA.


Which brings us to Robert Morgenthau, who is bringing this case and should perhaps be the most
mortified of all. Morgenthau is ending a 35 year career as DA, and the
holidays are usually quite slow. This could perhaps be the last “big” case
he charges publicly before Cy Vance takes over.


After 35 years, it seems sad
that it’s one that shows a really dumb crook duping an even dumber victim
for so many years. Photo via NYU.

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