September 11, 2016

Former Engaged Cornell Liaison Convicted of Conspiracy

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Correction appended

Former Engaged Cornell NYC liaison, Karen Nicholas, was convicted of conspiracy this June in connection with former Pennsylvania Representative Chaka Fattah’s (D-Pa.) corruption scandal.

Nicholas was indicted for misspending $50,000 in federal grant funds — intended to be used for an education conference — on a political consultant, attorney fees and in checks to herself. She resigned her post in May in order to focus on her legal defense.

Nicholas was hired by New York City’s Cornell Cooperative Extension in March to “expand the capacity and interest of Cornell faculty and students…and enhance community-engaged scholarship and teaching efforts involving New York City communities, organizations and residents,” according to the University.

Fattah, whose case involved the racketeering of money to repay a $1 million loan from his failed mayoral bid in 2007, was found guilty of all counts against him in June. Fattah’s sentencing trial will take begin on Oct. 4.

Nicholas, a longtime friend of Fattah, was a former aide at Fattah’s Philadelphia Congressional Office, and the CEO of the non-profit Educational Advancement Alliance, an organization funded by Fattah.

The Educational Advancement Alliance — which provided supplemental academic programs to underrepresented high school, college, and graduate students — was a key player in the laundering of $600,000 in federal grants to other corporations in order to pay off Fattah’s campaign loan.

Nicholas was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud, and two counts of falsification of records. The position of Engaged Cornell NYC liaison remains unfilled. The University declined to comment on the charges against Nicholas.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Pennsylvania representative Chaka Fattah as “Chuck Fattah.”