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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Law group to be audited

news@dailylobo.com
@ArdeeTheJourno

After months of investigation, UNM’s Internal Audit Department has decided that a Law School group’s case regarding public money misspending deserves a criminal investigation.

Earlier this week, the department finished preliminary investigation and has forwarded the Student Bar Association’s case to the UNM Police Department and to the Office of the New Mexico State Auditor.

But Evan Blackstone, chief of staff of the state auditor, said his office has not received the final report of the internal audit investigation. He said he expects to access the final report by the end of this week or early next week.

“They notified us this week that the report is forthcoming, that they have referred the information to the UNM Police Department,” he said. “They will forward us the internal audit report, as well as keep us updated regarding the results of the criminal investigation.”

Blackstone said UNM officially notified the state auditor’s office in October.

“There is some irregular and suspicious activity related to this particular student account that UNM believed warranted an investigation,” he said.

Internal Audit’s investigation of the SBA arose after UNM Law School student Christopher Dodd filed a public records request asking for “any document indicating the approximate total dollar amount believed to have gone missing from the UNM School of Law Student Bar Association’s bank accounts” and obtained a list of bank statements on Oct. 26.

The bank account was created by the SBA at New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, according to an earlier report by the Daily Lobo. The account was closed last year.

The statements, which showed the account’s transactions from April 2012, included expenditures at various stores, such as a $200.83 expenditure at Tiffany’s in San Francisco, a $146.74 expenditure at a Hyatt Hotel and repeated expenditures at Zen Nail Spa totalling $118.

The statements also showed repeated transactions in bars, such as a $66.89 total bill at Zinc Wine Bar, and in coffee shops, such as a $51.01 bill at a Satellite.

Utility and insurance transactions, including repeated expenditures at Qwest totaling $250.83 and a $202.70 expenditure at Geico, were also present.

Cash withdrawals, the single largest of which was $303.21, were also listed in the statements.

Blackstone said the SBA might face “criminal prosecution for inappropriate use of public funds” depending on the results of the criminal investigation.

“Once we receive the report, our auditors and our investigators will fully review the report,” he said. “The first priority is to ensure that UNM external financial auditors are fully informed of the results of the investigation and any risks identified.”

But UNMPD public information officer Lieutenant Tim Stump said the department still cannot speculate on the range of penalties SBA might face. He said there is no specific timeline for the criminal investigation.

“The case is right now under investigation,” he said. “It’s going to be a long investigation due to the complexity of it.”
Stump said the department’s detectives will work with the District Attorney’s Office on the investigation.

Blackstone said he expects the University to thoroughly look into the case.

“Our expectation is that UNM will fully investigate this case,” he said. “We expect to see this fully resolved.”