How to Successfully Embezzle Money from Your Student Group

By Tim Matchen, Chairman Emeritus

Illustrated by AZ '16
Illustrated by AZ ’16

Let me start with a disclaimer: I have never, ever embezzled money from The Princeton Tiger (though I make no similar claims about my interactions with The Daily Princetonian)—but if I had wanted to, I totally could have. Here’s how I would have done it:

Phase I: Picking the Right Organization 

Go big or go home

A lot of student groups on campus operate on a subsistence level, taking in only enough money to cover the costs associated with their organization in the near future. These groups have a strong chance of folding before you’re ever in position to embezzle from them, there’s simply no money available for the taking, and it’s too obvious when money is removed! So instead of joining up with some misguided social cause like Princetonians for Enhanced Netflix Instant-queue Selections, aim big: some student groups on campus (*cough* Business Today *cough*) have Scrooge McDuck-style pools of greenbacks just waiting for someone to come along and surreptitiously take some.

If you can’t gain access to one of these wealthy organizations, find a group that is completely destitute yet somehowstill limping along. If an organization is absolutely hemorrhaging money and already thousands in debt to ODUS, everyone stopped paying attention to how they spend their money years ago anyway.

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out which of these categories the Tiger falls under.

Diversity is Everything

The problem with student groups is that when you want to pay for something using the student group’s account, you need to provide receipts and documentation of the purchase. As a result, when considering a group to embezzle from, you really have two options:

  • Pick any group you want and only embezzle to purchase items from luxury item companies with exceptionally discreet names. If you know a hookup for designer suits operating under the trade name Student Group Supplies Depot, more power to you.
  • Pick a group whose purchasing needs are diverse enough so as to not raise too much suspicion when you start embezzling. Hiring a group of strippers on the Anscombe Society’s dime, for example, is probably not going to fly.  But that jet ski you just bought? Maybe that’s the grand prize in one of the Entrepreneurship Club’s hackathons. Round-trip tickets to Brazil? You’re determining the feasibility of holding next year’s Business Today conference in Sao Paolo. Want a giant mirror for your dorm room? That could easily be folded into any purchases for one of the Daily Princetonian’s infamous pancake-and-cocaine parties.

Know the Organizational Structure

At the Tiger, we have a Chairman, a President, an Editor-in-Chief, and a Business Manager, and after four years of working for the magazine, I still can’t tell you who’s really in charge.  That level of organizational dysfunction is exactly what you want in a prospective target—if no one knows who is in charge, no one knows who to blame when something goes wrong either.

Beware of groups with a graduate treasurer! Besides probably paying more attention to what you’re doing, they’re also almost definitely already embezzling.

Phase II: Establish yourself

Start small

You’re going to need to start small and work your way up through the ranks until someone trusts you enough to give you access to the accounts. Think of this as your mailroom gig: it’s a humble beginning, but it can lead to far greater things.  And much like a mailroom gig, you’ll probably be either ignored by others or generallydisliked. In fairness though, you’re a scheming sociopath hell-bent on stealing large sums of money from a college student organization, so those feelings of antipathy are probably justified.

Seize power

Ultimately, of course, your goal must be to consolidate power under yourself. Every student group is slightly different as far as this process is concerned, but at least at the Tiger, this generally involves the hiring of a small group of well-armed guerilla soldiers and eliminating any members of the opposing faction. It is my understanding that in groups such as the Tory, the far more polite method of changing the locks on all the doors is commonly accepted. As of this writing, I have been unable to confirm the rumors that the Student Design Agency selects its leadership by chugging printer toner until only one prospective officer remains.

Phase III: Take ‘em for Everything They’re Worth

Test the waters

You don’t want to jump into embezzlement headfirst. See the response to a small acquisition first before moving on to bigger and brighter things. If you have opted for the “military junta” method in the seize power step, paying your militant backers is a great way to test the waters!

Don’t overdo the “small purchases” strategy, though. Trying pinch pennies from one organization at a time is both ineffective and obvious. Unless you’re a proud member of the probably-a-real-thing Princeton Numismatic Society, buying things in sets of 25 cents is a bad strategy.

The Big Score

Take it. Take it all. There are a couple different ways to do this:

  • Throw caution to the wind and just buy everything. Submit all the invoices to ODUS and hope for the best.
  • Create a fake, second student group and transfer money to it. Make this group as specific as you want to meet your purchasing needs. No one is going to look too carefully at a transaction between, say, the Tiger and the outreach organization Cartographers Without Borders, and if that group is buying up the world’s supply of old-timey maps where Russia is still listed as the Soviet Union, that’s far less likely to arouse suspicion. This is best done with a fake charitable group, which requires no justification for the transfer of money at all—your real student group is simply being charitable, with the charity being your blackened soul.

– TDM ’14

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