5 examples of fraud that universities can learn from

October 25, 2013

Earlier this month, a report produced by the anti-corruption agency Transparency International exposed the extent of fraud in international higher education.

It included numerous examples of unethical behaviour, including these five cases of fraud that left a multi-million dollar hole in the higher education sector’s budget.

Close-up of two credit cards

5. Iona College

In March 2011, the former vice president of finance of Iona College in New York, Marie Thornton, pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $850,000 (£525,000) by issuing college cheques for her own use, using a college credit card for personal purchases and making false expenses claims.

Ms Thornton, a catholic nun also known as Sister Susie, committed the thefts over a period of 10 years.

Locked prison cell door

4. Vassar College

In April 2011, Arthur Fisher, a project manager at Vassar College in New York, and his wife Jennifer Fisher, were sent to prison after they created a fictitious construction company and began charging the college for services that had not been performed.

The scheme netted $1.9 million (£1.2 million) over five years.

Man putting cash into bank vault locker

3. Myungshin University and Sungwha College

In 2011, South Korea’s education ministry closed two universities down after they committed “serious corruption and irregularities”, AsiaOne News reported.

The closure of Sungwha College followed embezzlement by its founder, while employees at Myungshin were also alleged to have stolen funds.

The closures forced enrolled students to seek places in other institutions, while students who were promised places in the future had to seek alternative placements.

Woman stealing cash

2. The University of Montana

In 2010, Christine Bitterman, who worked in the Residence Life office at the University of Montana, pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $300,000 (£186,000) over a period of seven years, the Missoulian reported.

She had been stealing student rent payments that had been made in cash.

Woman writing cheque

1. The University of Vermont

In July 2012, Celine Bernier, a former administrative assistant with the University of Vermont, was sent to prison after pleading guilty to depositing university cheques totalling almost $46,000 (£28,500) into her personal account over a five-year period.

According to the Burlington Free Press, the university was tipped off by a letter from Community National Bank that contained a check for $1,425 payable to UVM Extension - the university’s community outreach arm - that had been deposited into Ms Bernier’s personal account.

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Reader's comments (1)

UK Higher Education institutions can reduce their exposure to fraud by training key budget-holders in the basics of procurement and contract management. Luckily the sector has developed ts own suite of training courses on a not-for-profit basis, so HEIs can be comfortable that no-one is making a fast buck out of this particular need. The sector's own Higher Education Procurement Academy can be accessed via www.hepa.ac.uk.

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