Review finds UM social work employee committed fraud

Worker said to misuse thousands of dollars in gift cards

case forwarded to attorney general

July 09, 2010|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

A former employee of the University of Maryland School of Social Work committed fraud in misusing thousands of dollars worth of gift cards intended for needy families, according to an internal review forwarded to two state legislative committees.

The report, dated June 30, did not detail the employee's actions but says the case was forwarded to the state attorney general's office last month for possible prosecution. The employee, who was not identified, was let go earlier this year.

"The results of the audit have been referred to the criminal division of the office of the attorney general," a University of Maryland, Baltimore, spokesman said in a prepared statement. "It is inappropriate to offer further comment on this prior to the conclusion of the OAG's investigation."

The potential misuse of gift cards was initially caught by the same state audit that raised questions about $410,000 in compensation to Karen Rothenberg, the former dean of the University of Maryland School of Law. That case remains under review by the attorney general, according to the internal report from UMB.

Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., a St. Mary's County Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee on higher education, said the case was an example of the audit system working as it should.

"When you're dealing with budgets of billions of dollars, I think an example like this shows the purpose of having the audit process in place," Bohanan said. "I'm pleased that the system, and the university itself, responded fairly quickly."

The state audit, released in February, says that between 2006 and 2008, the employee used a corporate purchasing card to buy $40,700 in gift cards for a federally funded program. But the university could not document who received the cards or how the money was spent. The employee told auditors that the cards were distributed to staff members and students so they could purchase items for needy families.

In follow-up interviews, staff members and students said the employee did give them some of the gift cards.

The school has since implemented a stricter policy for monitoring gift card use, according to the internal report, signed by E. Albert Reece, who was acting as interim president of UMB until last week.

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