Suspect in $5.7 Million Columbia Theft Pleads Not Guilty, Kept in Custody

A man arrested in connection with the theft of $5.7 million from Columbia University pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.

Jeremy Dieudonne, 46, appeared today in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan and is scheduled to return to court Aug. 8. He was arrested July 29 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, said Judy Wang, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

A Bronx, New York, man, George Castro, 49, was indicted in December on charges of stealing the funds from Columbia by redirecting payments intended for a hospital. Dieudonne and a third man, Walter Stephens Jr., 65, were indicted in June on related charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

Castro was accused of sending 56 payments intended for New York Presbyterian Hospital to a TD Bank account registered in the name of IT & Securities Solutions LLC, a company he formed which wasn’t affiliated with Columbia, prosecutors said.

Castro distributed the money to bank accounts in his name, sent money to friends and family and bought an $80,000 Audi Q7 and more than $18,000 worth of Apple Inc. products, according to the government.

He was arrested outside his home Nov. 24 while entering his newly purchased vehicle and had more than $200,000 in cash when he was taken into custody, according to Vance’s office.

25-Year Maximum

About $4.1 million of the $5.7 million was identified, frozen or seized as of Dec. 15, prosecutors said.

The three men face maximum sentences of as long as 25 years in prison if convicted.

Dieudonne had been living at an apartment in Lawrence under an assumed name, Hector Santiago, and New York City police detectives had traveled to Massachusetts last week in an attempt to find him, Lawrence Police Chief John J. Romero said in a phone interview.

The detectives couldn’t locate Dieudonne during their trip and returned to New York, Romero said. A few days later, a Lawrence police sergeant returned to the apartment with Massachusetts State Police troopers and took Dieudonne into custody after pretending to respond to a 911 call, Romero said.

Dieudonne denied his identity at first before eventually admitting his real name, Romero said. The fugitive was carrying a Massachusetts driver’s license and a Social Security card in the name of Hector Santiago, Romero said. He appeared in court in Massachusetts earlier this week and was turned over to New York City police, Romero said.

Not Columbia Employees

None of the defendants worked for Columbia and the university hasn’t done any business with the company, said a person close to the investigation who declined to be identified because the information hasn’t been revealed in court.

Scott Davis, an attorney who represented Dieudonne during today’s court appearance, declined to comment on the case. Castro and Stephens, who both pleaded not guilty, haven’t posted bail and are being held pending an Aug. 31 court appearance, Wang said.

The case is People vs. Castro, 11-02922, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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