JERSEY CITY (CBS 2) — Some Jersey City college students learned a tough lesson just as a new academic year got underway, as a school administrator has been accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from them.
Student organizations at New Jersey City University are hard at work, with an extra eye on their finances, to kick off the school year.
State investigators say they were victims in a scheme by a school office manager to steal $420,000 from their annual activities budget.
“Actually, we were taken advantage of, because all the money is directly from students’ funds,” senior Carolina Garcia said.
“It’s really wrong,” student Victor Brito said. “That’s like stealing money from a little kid.”
The suspect, 48-year-old Shaunette Moody, is an eight-year employee at NJCU. She, along with her husband Alexander, now faces state and federal charges for conspiring to steal funds from student organizations.
Moody allegedly took the money – earmarked for programs and, in some cases, tuition reimbursements – and then forged signatures, cashing unauthorized checks. The whole time, she apparently told student leaders like student government president Fatimah Terry, that they had overspent.
“But when the data didn’t make sense, that’s when we started asking questions,” Terry said.
So how did it happen? It turns out those student organizations had accounts not with the university, but with a local bank, giving Moody almost uncontrolled access to student funds.
“It was discovered as a result of a bounced check,” John Melendez, vice president of student affairs, said.
Melendez said an investigation revealed discrepancies dating back to 2007, and that Moody and her husband had help from three co-conspirators – their friends – who signed over checks to them, taking a percentage of the cash.
What they did with the money isn’t clear, but the Moody family lives in a modest row house in Jersey City – far from the lap of luxury.
University officials say the school is insured against theft, and that every student’s account will eventually be reimbursed.