Former UB VP, another former employee admit to theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from school

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Former University at Buffalo vice president Dennis Black and former Director of Campus Living, Andrea Costantino, appeared in State Supreme Court Thursday morning.

The two were suspected in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a school bank account.

Costantino pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny. She must pay back $14,664 and will be sentenced on December 6.

Black, 61, later admitted to the same crime, as well as Offering a False Instrument for Filing related to his 2014 tax returns. Officials say he stole $320,000 in UB funds and evaded more than $22,000 in taxes.

He served as the school’s Vice President of University Life Services.

According to an investigation, Black had been stealing money since 2007.

He used it for personal travel, a social club membership and tickets for sports and entertainment. In addition to that, the investigation said he used the money to donate to charity in his own name.

The money was taken from an account funded by the Faculty Student Association, which operates book stores and food services at UB.

“Mr. Black was one of the highest paid public employees in Western New York, making almost $300,000 and yet he then on top of that took $300,000 from the university,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

“He embarrassed this whole town,” Flynn added.

The Faculty Student Association released a statement:

“For more than 50 years, the independent, non-profit Faculty Student Association has provided superior food and auxiliary services to the University at Buffalo. Consistent with SUNY guidelines and at the request of current and past UB administrations, UBFSA annually transferred a portion of its revenues to UB for the university’s broader use, in light of diminishing state government support to UB. In particular, these funds helped defray expenditures in the operations of the university. UBFSA was surprised to learn that, despite a system of checks and balances, UB and UBFSA became victims of two former UB employees’ diversion of some of those transferred funds, resulting in a financial loss to UB.”

“As a result, and after careful consideration, review, and full cooperation with UB, SUNY, state and Erie County officials, the UBFSA board and UB leadership implemented several significant financial accountability initiatives. These go above and beyond what SUNY and state regulators require of campus auxiliary organizations.”

“First, a number of outside, independent directors joined the UBFSA’s governing board and helped staff a newly created audit committee; second, the board hired a new outside auditor that is performing an internal controls review and a top-to-bottom financial analysis; third, all revenues transferred from the UBFSA to UB are now verified to be in accounts overseen solely by the UB Office of Finance and Administration; and, fourth, the UBFSA’s board now includes seven UB  administrative officers, including the UB controller.”

“UBFSA and its employees are proud of the work they do, and the services they provide to UB and its students, faculty and staff. Their work will continue as UBFSA fulfills its mission to provide the highest-quality services to the UB community.”

Black was ordered to pay restitution and was released on his own recognizance. He will be sentenced on January 10.

Last year, in July 2016, Black resigned from his position at UB after working for the school for 38 years. Costantino, who worked for the school for more than 20 years, resigned last month.

“Mr. Black took full and complete responsibility for errors in judgment that occurred during his employment at the University at Buffalo,” said his attorney, Brian Mahoney.  “Mr. Black has committed to making full restitution for any expenses that were not clearly within the scope of his employment and in furtherance of the goals of the university.”

UB President Satish Tripathi released a statement on the former employees:

“Today, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office held a press conference announcing that a former UB employee has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of grand larceny and another former UB employee has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of grand larceny and an additional felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing.

This matter stems from a university audit conducted by UB’s Office of Internal Audit in April 2016. This audit was conducted at my direction due to concerns of financial mismanagement in the former University Life and Services organization.

The UB audit uncovered a pattern of financial abuse, including the misappropriation of state funds in the former University Life and Services organization and the Faculty-Student Association. (The Faculty-Student Association is a separate, private, not-for-profit corporation affiliated with UB.)

In July 2016, I, in consultation with the Office of General Counsel for SUNY, directed UB’s Office of Internal Audit to refer this matter to the New York State Office of the Inspector General. Concurrently, this matter was referred to the SUNY Fraud Committee.

In July 2016, the Office of the Inspector General assumed responsibility for this investigation. Throughout the investigation, UB cooperated fully with the Office of the Inspector General, and UB will cooperate fully with the Office of the District Attorney.

As soon as we uncovered the financial abuse, the University at Buffalo took swift and appropriate measures to tighten financial controls, including assigning authority for all financial decisions and transactions to the Vice President for Finance and Administration.”

“With regard to the university, our investigation is continuing. We’re looking at policies and practices there to ensure that this never happens again,” said Jeff Hagen with New York State Inspector General’s office in Buffalo.

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