Embezzlement charged at U

A former student-worker in the Office of Admissions admitted to stealing $47,321, police said.

Elizabeth Cook

A University student has been charged with embezzling almost $50,000 from the University, according to court papers filed Jan. 12.

Kelly Davis, 19, worked in the Office of Admissions, said University Police Chief Greg Hestness.

Police tried to contact Davis after receiving tips from University employees, they said. Davis willingly came into the University police department Nov. 15 and admitted to 73 credit transfers to his accounts totaling $47,321 and was charged with felony embezzlement, according to police reports.

In October, after he was fired from the Office of Admissions because of what the office called performance issues, University employees discovered that Davis had $43,611 in his student account and became suspicious, according to Hennepin County District Court papers.

He had access to passwords and was transferring money into his account, Hestness said. Davis used it to pay off student debts and also mailed himself some rebates, Hestness said.

“Having a student commit a crime like this is an unusual circumstance,” said Steve Johnson, deputy police chief for the University.

According to supplemental reports made available because the investigation is closed, Davis had access to PeopleSoft, a program that provides information about students and employees, but excludes financial information.

The office has a logbook that contains PeopleSoft accounts and password combinations, which Davis shouldn’t have had access to, according to the papers. But the book was kept near where Davis worked.

Davis transferred credits, which are similar to money, into his student account more than 10 times from January to September.

University employees became suspicious after Sept. 19, when 14 credits, equivalent to $11,000, were transferred into Davis’ student account, said Jason Tossey, an investigator for the University Police Department.

He wasn’t caught in the past because he was taking smaller amounts, ranging from $3,000 to $6,000, Tossey said.

The money left over after $22,163 went toward University tuition and fees ” $25,158 ” was automatically transferred into his Wells Fargo account since he had direct deposit through his job, police said.

Because the Internet protocol address was recorded each time he made financial transactions, Tossey said, investigators were able to use computers to catch Davis.

They found that he would check his University e-mail, then log off, go to PeopleSoft, and then back into his University e-mail, Tossey said. He was checking to see if the transfer went through, he said.

Davis also used his U Card, which automatically bills a student account, at the University Bookstore to make purchases, including iPods.

Then he would sell the iPods on eBay for less than they normally cost, Tossey said. That would effectively convert credit value in his University account into spendable cash.

According to the supplemental report, Davis purchased nine iPods and three Tungsten Palm Pilots.

Employees of the admissions office refused to comment because, they said, it is a law enforcement issue, but Wayne Sigler, the admissions director, released a statement Tuesday.

“This is an unfortunate, isolated incident. Working with law enforcement and other administrative units, steps have been taken to prevent this kind of situation from happening again,” Sigler wrote in the statement.

University law professor Barry Feld said that given the amount of money, the student could be given as much as a year in a workhouse, probation, fines and imprisonment if found guilty.

“The bottom line is the kid’s in trouble,” Feld said.

Johnson said a felony conviction would be on Davis’ permanent record.

That could have negative effects, especially when trying to get a job in a competitive market, Johnson said.

Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for Student Affairs, said depending on decisions made with the student conduct code coordinator, if found guilty, Davis’ punishment could include anything from expulsion to probation.

Rinehart said the lawsuit will not have an impact on other students or the school because it is such an isolated incident.

It is a reminder that students here hold important jobs, Rinehart said. And this being an exception, 99.9 percent of the time they do a wonderful job, he said.

After repeated attempts, Davis was not reached for comment.