A former employee at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut stole more than $40 million worth of computers and electronics from the university and sold the items to fund a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars, travel and several properties prosecutors.
On Monday, Jamie Petrone, 42, of Lithia Springs, Georgia, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, the US Attorney for the District of Connecticut said.
Petrone is accused of operating an eight-year program beginning in 2013 that resulted in losses totaling $40,504,200 to Yale.
Officials have said that she began working in the school’s emergency medicine department five years ago in 2008, and that her most recent position was as the department head of finance and administration.
Petrone had “authority to make and approve specific purchases for department needs so long as the purchase amount was less than $10,000,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.
She began, either herself or through other associates, to order millions worth of electronics with Yale Medicine funds and arranged for the items to be shipped to a company in neighboring upstate New York for a fee. The New York company then resold the electronics, including Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and iPads.
Prosecutors said the New York company sent the money to Maziv Entertainment LLC, of which Petrone is a principal. She is said to have incorrectly stated in internal forms and electronic communications that the hardware was intended for the medical school. She made sure each order was under $10,000 to avoid an oversight, the DOJ said.
The US Attorney for the District of Connecticut said it used the money for real estate, expensive cars and travel.
She had to give up six vehicles: two Mercedes-Benz, two Cadillac Escalades, a Dodge Charger and a Range Rover.
The US Treasury lost more than $6 million because it failed to pay taxes on the stolen funds, the DOJ added. They said she filed inaccurate federal tax returns between 2013 and 2016 and claimed the stolen hardware was a business expense. She did not file a federal statement between 2017 and 2020, prosecutors added.
The investigation began in August last year and was spearheaded by the FBI and IRS. An affidavit in the case says Petrone has said in a voluntary statement that it estimates about 90 percent of its electronics purchases were part of the fraud scheme.
After being arrested in September 2021, she was released on $1 million bail to await sentencing.
In addition to the luxury vehicles, $560,000 was also seized from Maziv Entertainment LLC’s bank account.
“She has also agreed to liquidate three properties in Connecticut that she owns or co-owns in order to meet her restitution obligation,” the DOJ said Monday. “Any property she owns in Georgia will also be confiscated and liquidated.”
Petrone’s attorney, Frank Riccio, told NBC News on Wednesday that she “has accepted responsibility for her actions and shows remorse.”
“She now looks forward to adjudicating and repairing some of the damage caused,” the attorney added.
The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison, and the longest penalty for filing a false tax return is three years. Petrone is due to be sentenced on June 29.