September 20, 2002

Pre-law Professor Indicted in Fraud

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After months of revelations of corporate misdeeds and executive corruption across the nation, it seems now that Cornell’s own are not exempt from scandal.

On Sept. 12, Prof. Mark Belnick ’68, visiting professor and director of Cornell’s summer pre-law program, was indicted in New York State Supreme Court on six counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, according to the court indictment.

The charges stem from Belnick’s employment with the Tyco Corporation, a firm he joined as general counsel in 1987.

Christine Holmes, program manager of the summer pre-law program, responding to the indictment said, “at the moment the schedule for the summer of 2003 is not completely set. We are monitoring closely legal developments with respect to Mr. Belnick but wish to emphasize that every person is innocent until proven guilty.”

Belnick allegedly falsified company documents to conceal $14 million in improper loans granted to himself, according to the indictment.

Those loans were extended under a Tyco program intended to pay for employees’ moving expenses. However, Belnick used the loans to purchase a $10 million vacation home in Utah and a $4 million apartment in Manhattan.

The loans were later forgiven, according to a Manhattan District Attorney’s office press release.

Two other Tyco executives, L. Dennis Kozlowski, the chief executive officer, and Mark H. Swartz, the chief financial officer, were also indicted. They face the more substantial felony charges of enterprise corruption and grand larceny in the first degree. According to the District Attorney’s office, the pair allegedly stole more than $170 million from Tyco and obtained more than $430 million through fraudulent securities sales.

Kozlowski and Swartz face up to 25 years in prison if proven guilty, while Belnick faces up to four years in prison.

In addition to the criminal charges, all three face civil suits filed by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Responding to the allegations, Belnick’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, expressed confidence in his client’s innocence.

In a statement reported in the New York Times, Weingarten asserted that Belnick, “has done nothing wrong” and that, “when this painful process ends, he will be cleared of the unsupportable allegations that have been made against him.”

Belnick was released after the indictment on an unsecured recognizance bond of $1 million.

He, as well as Kozlowski and Swartz, appeared in court again yesterday for a bail hearing and for motion scheduling, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spokesperson.

A trial date has not yet been set in the matter but is likely to be at least a year away.

Archived article by Michael Dickstein