SUNY Professor Arrested For Stealing $32K

New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang has announced the arrest of a former State University of New York (SUNY) Sullivan professor for allegedly stealing more than $32,000 by forging an application for a grant intended to provide high-need school districts’ K-12 teachers with professional learning opportunities.

Cynthia Marcello, 55, of Hurley, was arraigned in Fallsburg Justice Court before the Hon. Judge Ronald Stabak on a charge of Forgery in the 2nd Degree (D Felony). Marcello resigned from SUNY in March 2020.

“Dr. Marcello’s alleged forging of a federal grant application for personal profit is an affront to the intention of such programs – providing professional growth and learning opportunities for teachers at high-need school districts,” said Inspector General Lang. “We are grateful to SUNY for promptly bringing the scheme to our attention, and to our law enforcement partners with whom we are working to ensure that she is held accountable. Especially during these difficult times, the resources allocated to New York’s teachers should never be compromised.”

Marcello was a computer science professor at SUNY Sullivan for 12 years, teaching courses on game development, cybersecurity, and other computer-related topics. An investigation by the Inspector General’s Office found that Marcello, without permission or authorization, falsely completed and signed a grant application on behalf of SUNY Sullivan, with $32,400 coming directly to her instead of the college.

The Liberty Central School District, in conjunction with Sullivan BOCES, applied for a New York State Education Department federal grant for Title II, Part B Mathematics and Science Partnerships. The grant allows for a higher education institution (in this case, SUNY Sullivan) to enter a partnership with a local high-need school district (Liberty CSD and Sullivan BOCES) to provide teachers with professional learning opportunities.

The grant was supposed to go through SUNY Sullivan and then be paid to Marcello, of which she should have appropriately received between $1,000 to $3,000 for her work.

Investigators discovered that Marcello, who filled out the grant application, listed herself as the vendor on the grant and was paid $32,400 directly (38 percent of the total grant, approximately $750 per hour). Marcello sent invoices to Sullivan BOCES from her personal address so she could be paid directly. As one witness described, Marcello “cut [SUNY Sullivan] out” and “deliberately deceived” the college.

The investigation discovered that Marcello was listed on multiple grants in the past, all of which were appropriately run through the college and resulted in pay significantly less than what she earned through the alleged scheme.

Upon discovering Marcello’s direct payments, SUNY Sullivan contacted the New York State Police, which in turn referred the matter to the Inspector General. The Inspector General partnered with the New York State Police and the United States Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General (DOE-OIG). Inspector General Lang thanked these partners, as well as the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting the case and the New York State Police for conducting the arrest.

The investigation was handled by Investigative Counsel David Harvey, former Investigative Counsel Dennis DiBari and Investigator Dale Richter.

The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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