ITHACA, N.Y. – A woman who was previously accused of stealing more than $360,000 worth of camera equipment from Cornell University was sentenced to five years of probation in Tompkins County Court on Friday afternoon.
Colleen Clausen, 60, was charged with second-degree grand larceny after it was discovered that she had been making “fraudulent and unauthorized” transactions, according to court documents.
Clausen, who worked in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, was in charge of making equipment orders upon the request of faculty members. Court records state that between July 21, 2011 to Aug. 7 2015, Clausen bought more than 100 cameras and eight lenses, which she had shipped to the school. It was alleged then that she made a profit by shipping the equipment to third parties who sold the items at a reduced price.
When the financial irregularities were being investigated in January 2016, a Cornell police officer reported that she could not explain. The total amount of the items which Clausen stole are reported to be worth $367,360.48.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia, who prosecuted the case, said that over the course of the four-year period, Clausen made 38 separate transactions.
“That is something that would entitle someone to a prison sentence,” he said. “In my 13 years as a prosecutor, that’s the largest amount I’ve ever seen.”
Bonavia said the District Attorney’s office recommended a 3-6 year prison sentence.
Attorney Joseph Joch, who represented Clausen, said she had been working remotely for Cornell from Reno, Nevada, where she had moved to take care of her ailing in-laws. Joch said that Clauson was nearing the end of her career at Cornell at this time and her financial situation caused her to panic.
“(Clausen) is receiving counseling to achieve an understanding of why she took part in this behavior,” Joch said.
Judge John Rowley said that while he considered the worth of stolen equipment to be a “remarkable total” he also noted that he did not think the community would be safer with Clausen locked up,
“We get paid what we earn, and if you steal, penalties will be assessed,” Rowley said. “I would send you to prison if I thought it would accomplish anything.”
While she has made efforts in paying some of the money back, Clausen still owes $75,000 in restitution. Clausen was sentenced to a five-year probation period, and will have to pay back the remaining money she owes in restitution.