Southern University Work-Study Scam under Investigation

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BATON ROUGE, LA.

A local district attorney has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that eight employees at historically Black Southern University defrauded the school's work-study program for $167,317 by falsifying student time sheets.

Southern University System Vice President Ralph Slaughter says officials at the Baton Rouge campus discovered irregularities in 1999 and alerted Louisiana Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle about the problem.

But Slaughter, a former Louisiana State secretary of taxation and revenue, says he didn't realize the extent of the fraud until Kyle completed a yearlong probe and filed a report Dec. 15.

"We're trying to clean this up," Slaughter says, noting all eight employees involved in the swindle have either resigned or been terminated.

Kyle's auditors found that in some cases, the employees recruited students to participate in the scam, falsified time sheets for hours that the students never worked, and then split the money with them.

In some cases, the employees allegedly drove the students to their banks to ensure that they received a piece of the action, Kyle says.

For example, in one case, an employee reportedly took two students to a bank where they cashed work-study paychecks for hours that they never worked. The employee then allegedly gave the students $100 apiece from the paycheck proceeds, and kept the remaining $675, according to Kyle's report.

In another case, Kyle noted that two employees were said to have filed false time sheets on behalf of a student with the understanding that the student would treat them to dinner. The paycheck totaled $536, and the student spent approximately $200 wining and dining the employees at an upscale Baton Rouge restaurant.

But students were not accomplices in all cases.

Kyle says his auditors found instances in which the employees filled out false time sheets on behalf of the unsuspecting students and cashed the checks without the students ever knowing it.

One employee allegedly added herself to the work-study payroll and filed false time sheets so that she received $778 while she was student-teaching on leave without pay from her regular job.

The work-study scam ran from January 1996 through May 1999, and involved 67 students, Kyle says.

Kyle says the scam was one of the most disturbing that he has encountered. …