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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