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Erie County District Attorney expresses concern about Dennis Black's and Andrea Costantino's conviction

Lack of transparency worries officials

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Erie County District Attorney John Flynn sits in disbelief at the lack of trust between UB students and administrators one week after prosecuting former Vice President Dennis Black and former Director of Campus Living Andrea Costantino.

The Spectrum sat down with Flynn who addressed his concerns and frustrations about the convictions of Black and Costantino and the transparency of UB officials.

Flynn expressed his frustration with the way his alma mater has been handling their money recently.

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/ The Spectrum |


“If I’m on the counsel of UB and I’ve had two instances of this in the past four months, where six-figure amounts have been stolen, I’m going to ask ‘what’s going on? What are we doing to ensure that our finances are not being stolen?’” Flynn said, “I hope, as an alumnus of UB’s law school and as a member of this community I hope that those questions are being asked.”

President Tripathi released a statement to the UB community in response to the conviction of Black and Costantino. Tripathi has not made himself available to meet with The Spectrum despite multiple requests. UB Spokesperson John Della Contrada stated in an email that Tripathi will continue to update students and staff in the coming months and that Tripathi will make time to meet with The Spectrum.

“[President Tripathi] understands that students and other members of the university community have concerns about these crimes, how they were committed and the university’s role in uncovering the crimes,” Della Contrada said. “This is why the president sent an email to students, faculty and staff immediately after the convictions were announced…In addition, he plans to sit down with The Spectrum to discuss the issue as well as other university initiatives and activities [sic].”

President Tripathi also intends to address the issue during his annual university address in October.

Flynn disapproves of President Tripathi’s reluctance to meet with members of the student body and offered his own solution to fix the internal issues within UB’s administration.

“If I’m the head of an organization and there are internal concerns with regards to finance, which there obviously are at UB, I personally would do all I could to resolve them,” Flynn said. “Not only would I fix the problems, but I would ensure that I communicated to all concern that the problems were fixed, to help restore some of the trust and confidence that has been lost by Mr. Black and Ms. Costantino.”

Flynn also addressed his concern that this was not the only case where a large amount of money has been stolen from UB. Last year, Dean Yerry was found guilty for taking a $1 million bribe for a painting deal and stealing $100,000 from the university.

Flynn expressed his frustration with the way his alma mater has been handling their money recently.

“If I’m on the counsel of UB and I’ve had two instances of this in the past four months, where six-figure amounts have been stolen, I’m going to ask ‘what’s going on? What are we doing to ensure that our finances are not being stolen?’” Flynn said, “I hope, as an alumnus of UB’s law school and as a member of this community I hope that those questions are being asked.”

Black, who stole $320,000 from UB and owes $22,238 to NYS Taxation and Finance Dept. and Costantino, who stole $14,000 from UB still have not provided restitution have not returned the money to UB yet.

Flynn explains that when restitution is required, it can take some time before the owed amount is returned to its rightful owner.

“When someone pleads guilty and the case requires restitution, it’s usually required on their sentencing date,” Flynn said. “There are certain times when the judge permits an allocated amount of time for the defendant to come up with the required amount of money, so that could also be the case.”

Della Contrada stated that Black and Costantino are fully expected to pay the school back for the money that they stole.

“Black and Costantino have been directed to send their restitution to UB’s Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration,” Della Contrada said. “The money will be used for its original purpose: to fund student services.”

After Black’s sudden resignation July 7, 2016, he fled to his home in Pleasant Hill, SC, where he resided until his plea last week. Questions were raised as to why he voluntarily came forward and agreed to plead guilty.

“Black knew he was going to be indicted,” Flynn said. “We told his lawyer that he could walk Black in here and we’d find him guilty for the highest charge or we’d indict him.”

Statutorily, larceny classes are divided up from A-E with differing levels of punishment depending on how much money was stolen. Each class has a correlating span of jail time that a defendant must serve if found guilty.

Flynn feels that Black has betrayed the trust of the students, parents, staff and community of UB and can suggest that Black serves time in jail. The ruling judge, however, ultimately determines how many years of jail time he sees fit for both defendants to serve.

Costantino also resigned from her position, but not as suddenly as Black. According to Flynn, her case wasn’t closed until recently, so she held her position for a longer duration of time.

Flynn and the Inspector General proved that Black and Costantino had some kind of communication during the nine years that money was stolen from the university. Without a bug or recoding on file, they have no idea how long the two conversed or how their actions were hidden from the university.

“From the evidence shown, we believe that each was aware of the other’s actions,” Flynn said. “But, as far as what exact conversations they had, we have no background on.”

There’s also no indication that any family members or fellow staff knew that Black and Costantino were stealing money or working together, according to Flynn.

The Inspector General’s office is currently auditing issues related to FSA, to which spokesperson Della Contrada has no comment. In regard to Black and Costantino, the prosecutors are only able to ascertain up to the dates that they found and their cases are done.

Lucia Sullivan[J2], a freshman political science and legal studies major says that the recent episode involving Black and Costantino has made her question if the money she pays to UB every semester is being used for its designated purpose.

“This has really made me wonder where my tuition money is going,” Sullivan said. “Is the school being truthful? Education isn’t cheap and if I’m paying to go to a school where people like this are getting paid and then stealing more money, it makes me worried for the future of the school.”

Sullivan is using this blemish in the university’s administration as a learning experience for her future legal career.

“I’m planning on studying to be a lawyer so this whole incident has been very interesting to me,” Sullivan said. “Something makes me think that the university didn’t want this to be public. How was money stolen for almost ten years before someone realized it?”

Flynn realizes that trust between students and administrators at UB has been broken. He hopes the justice done at the hand of his jurisdiction is consoling to students looking for answers.

“Whatever faith or trust you may have lost, if there’s a hole in the wall, hopefully I put the cement back in that wall,” Flynn said. “In this community, there are investigators and prosecutors who tried to right a wrong and in this case the damage has been done. Black and Costantino betrayed the trust of everyone at the school and I can’t replace that, but I can convey to the students of UB that I caught him and justice is being done. The system worked, it may not have worked for nine years when they were stealing money, I admit that, but it worked and justice is complete.”

Max is the senior features editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com


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