Students react to UB employee stealing $15,000

Many outraged stealing is still occurring after incidents last year


Students said they are shocked and frustrated that another UB employee stole state money from the university after Dennis Black and Andrea Costantino’s arrests last year. 

James Spratz, project manager for Facilities Design and Construction, was arrested for defrauding the state and stealing over $15,000 in wages, New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott announced on Sept. 12. 

The 53-year-old Lancaster native was arrested and charged with Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, five counts, and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, all felonies, according to a report from Erie County District Attorney John Flynn’s office. Spratz was released pending his reappearance in court on Oct. 10.

UB released a statement last week following Spratz’s arrest. 

“The University at Buffalo is aware of the arrest of James Spratz and has cooperated fully with the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation of this matter,” UB Spokesperson John DellaContrada said in a press release. “In accordance with the disciplinary procedure between the university and Spratz’s union, he has been removed from the workplace pending disciplinary proceedings.”

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he couldn’t comment on Spratz’s arrest because it’s an ongoing investigation. He will only comment after a plea or conviction occurs. 

After Black’s sentencing last year, President Satish Tripathi issued a statement that said the university took measures to prevent this from happening again in the future. 

“As soon as we uncovered the financial abuse, the University at Buffalo took swift and appropriate measures to tighten financial controls… including assigning authority for all financial decisions and transactions to the vice president for Finance and Administration,” the statement said.

All of the 25 students interviewed by The Spectrum said they were appalled that another UB employee stole money from the university. 

Giovanni Codignotto, a sophomore computer science major, said he’s curious what UB is going to do to monitor its employees to make sure this doesn’t happen again. 

“Considering the money [Spratz] stole is probably our tuition money, that’s just not fair,” Codignotto said. “We’re paying so much money to go to this university, I feel like it’s going to waste if UB employees can steal it so easily.”

Alex Wang, a senior environmental design major, said UB acts as an example for other universities in the area. He said the fact that three employees have been found guilty for stealing large amounts of money in the last year is worrisome. 

“The university is a small society within Western New York and the state, so if this is happening in this lower level I can only imagine what’s happening at a higher level,” Wang said. “I’m from China and I think America has a good system, but this stuff should never happen. It’s shocking. I’m going to tell my parents, they always say America is perfect.”

Spratz’s arrest comes just over a year after former Vice President Dennis Black plead guilty to stealing roughly $320,000 from UB and $22,238 from the New York State Taxation and Finance Dept. Former Director of Campus Living Andrea Costantino plead guilty to stealing $14,000 last year, as well.

Some students, like Tyler O’Neill a freshman biological science major, are curious about how money is handled within the university. 

“I didn’t know about this problem, but now that I do it’s a little worrying and annoying but I don’t know how to fix it,” O’Neill said. “I don't know what exactly UB should do, but they need more security or educational classes for employees, anything that’ll prevent this from happening again.”

Codignotto said he expects the university to notify students and the rest of the UB community about how they’re going to prevent employees from stealing again in the future. 

“It makes me mad if the president said they’re protecting student money, yet this type of thing is still happening,” Codignotto said. “Ultimately, actions speak louder than words. If [administrators] say they’ll stop and it stops, that’s great. Since money was stolen again, it shows that UB employees just don’t care about us students and UB is doing nothing to stop it.” 

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

@Max_Kalnitz