Former Hopkins official charged

Fired administrator accused of tax evasion in income statement

April 30, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A former Johns Hopkins University administrator, fired amid contracting irregularities, has been charged by prosecutors with income tax evasion for fraudulently understating the income on his 1995 federal return by $113,470.

Robert J. Schuerholz, 63, who was ousted two years ago from his job as Hopkins' executive director of real estate and facilities after allegations of kickbacks and other financial improprieties, is scheduled to be arraigned May 13 before U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg.

A conviction on the charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to a criminal information filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, Schuerholz "did willfully and knowingly attempt to evade and defeat a large part" of his 1995 income tax by claiming on a joint return filed with his wife that his income for that year was $177,045, when it was $290,515.

The understatement of income by Schuerholz, who lives in Baldwin in Baltimore County, resulted in his failure to pay taxes of $31,772, the criminal information said. That figure represents the difference between the $79,046 he owed on his actual income of $290,515, and the $47,274 he paid on his stated income of $177,045, the information said.

The information does not specify the source of the income discrepancy.

James P. Ulwick, Schuerholz's attorney, declined yesterday to comment on the charge or to say whether his client had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors.

"I have no comment until we get to the arraignment," he said.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning also declined to comment.

But when charges are filed through a criminal information, rather than a grand jury indictment, it almost always means a plea agreement has been reached, although those charged are not bound to honor the plea at their arraignment.

Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said that university officials had "cooperated completely with the investigators" in the case, but said the school would have no comment on the charge against Schuerholz.

O'Shea said the university had changed its contracting procedures since Schuerholz's dismissal. During his tenure, Schuerholz often had sole authority to grant contracts of less than $500,000. Now, O'Shea said, "approval by a single person is no longer possible."

Schuerholz was dismissed from Hopkins on April 11, 1997 -- the same day he was accused in a private civil lawsuit involving partners in a Carroll County heating and ventilation company of receiving kickbacks from the company.

A month later, two former subordinates of Schuerholz's said that they had warned the university's top financial watchdog about possible problems in the way their boss handled contracts as far back as 1992.

A subsequent audit of university contracts by the accounting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick between 1992 and 1997 found that the university lost several hundred thousand dollars in intentional overcharges and payments for work that was never performed.

The university dismissed one of Schuerholz's deputies during the investigation, and another top official in the facilities department resigned.

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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