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Former Lobo hoops staffer indicted on felony embezzlement charge

Nearly two years after the University of New Mexico released an internal audit claiming former Lobos men’s basketball staffer Cody Hopkins had bilked up to $63,000 from the athletic department through fraudulent use of a company credit card, he was formally indicted Wednesday on felony embezzlement and forgery charges.

Hopkins, 35, who was hired last month as an assistant coach at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, declined comment Thursday when reached by the Journal and referred questions to his attorney.

“Mr. Hopkins has been waiting years for the opportunity to respond to these allegations,” said Jessica Hernandez, who along with Paul Kennedy is representing Hopkins for his criminal case.

“He looks forward to finally being able to defend against the allegations and vindicate himself in court.”

If convicted of all charges, Hopkins, who was never formally fired by UNM (his contract was not renewed in May 2016 as the director of operations under former head coach Craig Neal) and has no criminal record, could face more than 16 years in jail and fines of up to $35,000.

Hopkins will face arraignment in an Albuquerque courtroom within 10 days, and his case will proceed in front of State District Judge Christina Argyres. It is common, however, for initial appearances in such matters for an out-of-state defendant without a criminal record facing white collar crimes to be allowed to waive the initial appearance.

Michael Patrick, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said the timing of this week’s indictment is not related to recent high-profile coverage of UNM Athletics’ financial woes. On Tuesday, the Board of Regents decided to go forward with a budget plan that includes eliminating sports because of the financial challenges in the department.

Patrick added that embezzlement cases often take several years to work, and the Hopkins matter is no different from other similar cases.

“The Office the Attorney General is conducting a university-wide investigation which is not impacted by this indictment,” AG’s Office spokesman James Hallinan said. “However our specialized Anti-Money Laundering Prosecution Unit did offer to take over this matter (in the past, but the DA’s office did not take the offer).”

Hopkins told the Journal several months ago he felt that through years of financial issues going on with UNM Athletics, he was still the only who was being held accountable for anything. He has made clear from the start his denial of what he was alleged to have done in a 39-page internal audit presented by UNM in May 2016.

In that internal audit report, UNM alleged Hopkins misused his team purchasing card, referred to by all UNM employees as a “P-card.” UNM alleged it could not find receipts or other documentation for $53,984 in ATM withdrawals from July through December 2015. Hopkins was not interviewed as part of the investigation.

The Journal reported on the ATM charges after reviewing public records in February 2016, three months prior to UNM releasing its audit.

UNM also alleged there were $3,600 in cash withdrawals for which Hopkins submitted “falsified receipts” and $5,834 in purchases for personal use.

But the audit also noted numerous systemic failures — both in athletics and the university as a whole — in allowing the matter to have gone unchecked for several months. It made clear the department was aware Hopkins withdrew nearly $40,000 in cash from ATMs using his “P-Card” in the 2015 fiscal year that didn’t result in its use being restricted. UNM told the Journal that Hopkins met regularly with supervisors — former director of business operations Yvonne Otts and former deputy AD Tim Cass — in athletics about his “P-card” use, but nobody ever thought to block his use of it.

None of Hopkins’ supervisors has ever been reprimanded.

“This is an isolated act of one individual,” UNM’s former athletic director Paul Krebs told the Journal in May 2016. “… Cody was immediately placed on leave of absence when it was discovered it was more than just somebody who was (behind on bookkeeping).”

Hopkins has acknowledged a substance abuse problem about which he says his supervisors knew. Hopkins left UNM in December 2015 and entered a treatment facility in Texas. He has said he only learned of being placed on leave when reading a Journal reporter’s Twitter account on Dec. 22, 2015.

In October 2016, Hopkins filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a “charge of discrimination,” alleging he was being retaliated against by UNM.

“I believe I have been discriminated against and terminated in retaliation because of my disability in the violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” he wrote in the complaint dated Sept. 26.

That case is still pending.

Wednesday’s indictment states for the second-degree felony charge of embezzlement that Hopkins “did convert to his own use money, which had a market value of over $20,000, and with which defendant had been entrusted, with intent at the time of conversion to fraudulently deprive (UNM).”

The forgery charges in the indictment — counts two through six — indicate Hopkins either falsified receipts or forged coworkers’ names on receipts for such things as scouting service materials and attendance at basketball events by coworkers.

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