Forciea admits to fraud

A former University associate athletics director was charged Friday for allegedly stealing $10,000 from the athletics department.

Pat Forciea, 46, was charged with felony theft by false representation and felony theft by swindle over allegations that he stole $10,000 from the University through false billings in 2001.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

Also on Friday, Forciea pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. He admitted to forging documents and defrauding investors to obtain more than $5.6 million in bank loans to purchase two minor league hockey franchises.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of at least five years. Sentencing will take place in late fall or early next year.

Neither Forciea nor his attorney, Joe Friedberg, could be reached for comment.

The charges were filed in Hennepin County, but Anoka County prosecutors will try the case because Forciea was a political supporter of Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

The allegations involve a Gophers football-sponsorship deal Forciea arranged as a University associate athletics director.

According to the criminal complaint, Forciea charged Econofoods $32,000 to sponsor the Sept. 8, 2001 football game. The University received $15,000 while $7,000 in commission was paid to representatives of Econofoods and a local marketing firm.

That left $10,000 unaccounted for. Marketing consultant Mark Weber said he paid Forciea the money on behalf of Econofoods for promotional services, including the production and broadcast of television and radio advertisements.

But a University audit discovered that Forciea purchased those services with money from a University account.

When the University Department of Audits asked Forciea about the money, he provided nine different explanations, totaling $45,120, for how he spent the $10,000 in the Econofoods promotion, according to the complaint.

Gail Klatt, University vice president of internal audits, said the department could not substantiate a reason for the $10,000 discrepancy, so University police were notified.

The Department of Audits considers the matter an ongoing investigation, Klatt said.

Other internal audits sometimes turn up large discrepancies, she said, but the department can usually find a reasonable explanation for it. Klatt said it is uncommon to uncover cases of theft.

University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said the alleged problem in the Forciea case probably occurred because he operated an independent promotions company while serving as associate athletics director.

Maturi, who was not at the University when the alleged theft occurred, said the department no longer allows employees to work for outside interests.

“That particular issue I don’t think could happen again, because there is no conflict of interest,” he said. “You’re not serving two publics at the same time, and it’s my understanding that that is what Pat was doing.”

Forciea served as associate athletics director from 1994 to 1999, securing corporate sponsorships and selling advertising.

In addition to working in the University athletics department, Forciea was once a powerful DFL consultant, serving as Paul Wellstone’s chief strategist in his 1990 U.S. Senate campaign.

Forciea also worked as director of marketing and public relations for the North Stars and lobbied for a new Twins stadium.