Staffer allegedly bought electronics with university funds and sent hardware to out of state business
A former member of staff at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut stole more than $40m worth of computers and electronics from the university, selling the items to fund a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars, trips, and several properties, according to prosecutors.
On Monday, Jamie Petrone, 42, from Lithia Springs, Georgia pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut.
Petrone is accused of operating an eight-year scheme beginning in 2013, with Yale losses totalling $40,504,200.
Officials have said that she started working at the school’s emergency medicine department five years previously in 2008 and that she most recently worked as the department director of finance and administration.
Petrone had the “authority to make and authorize certain purchases for departmental needs as long as the purchase amount was below $10,000,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.
She started ordering, either herself or through other staff, electronics worth millions using Yale Medicine funds, arranging to have the items shipped to a business in neighbouring New York state in exchange for payment. The New York business then resold the electronics, including Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and iPads.
Prosecutors said the New York business sent the cash to Maziv Entertainment LLC, where Petrone is a principal. She’s alleged to have falsely stated in internal forms and electronic communications that the hardware was meant for the medical school. She made sure each order was below $10,000 to avoid oversight, DOJ said.
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut said she used the money for real estate, expensive cars, and travel.
She was forced to give up six vehicles: two Mercedes-Benz, two Cadillac Escalades, as well as a Dodge Charger, and a Range Rover.
The US treasury lost more than $6m as she didn’t pay taxes on the stolen funds, DOJ added. They said she filed inaccurate federal tax returns between 2013 and 2016, claiming that the stolen hardware was business expenses. Between 2017 and 2020, she didn’t file a federal return, prosecutors added.
The investigation began in August of last year and was spearheaded by the FBI and IRS. An affidavit in the case states that Petrone said in a voluntary statement that she estimated that about 90 per cent of her purchases of electronics were part of the fraud scheme.
After being arrested in September 2021, she was released on a bond of $1m to await sentencing.
In addition to the luxury vehicles, $560,000 has also been seized from the bank account of Maziv Entertainment LLC.
“She also has agreed to liquidate three Connecticut properties that she owns or co-owns to help satisfy her restitution obligation,” DOJ said on Monday. “A property she owns in Georgia is also subject to seizure and liquidation.”
Petrone’s lawyer Frank Riccio told NBC News on Wednesday that she “has accepted responsibility for her actions and is remorseful”.
“She now looks forward towards sentencing and repairing some of the damage that has been caused,” the attorney added.
The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years in prison, and the longest sentence for filing a false tax return is three years. Petrone is set to be sentenced on 29 June.