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Seizure of UNM Foundation documents linked to golf junket

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Continued secrecy and changing stories about a $25,000 donation linked to a scandal-plagued Scotland golf junket prompted the state Attorney General’s Office to search the University of New Mexico Foundation office earlier this week.

Special agents from Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office seized banker’s boxes, financial records, a computer hard drive and more from the foundation’s Albuquerque headquarters Wednesday as they investigated possible violations of the state’s Government Conduct Act, according to the search warrant affidavit filed in state District Court.

The affidavit cites emails between former UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs and his wife, Marjori, a current UNM employee, that “suggest that the $25,000 appears to be an attempt to cover up the violations” Krebs made in authorizing a 2015 athletic department fundraising golf trip to Scotland. It also notes that the foundation’s vice president of university development, Larry Ryan, and general counsel, Pat Allen, have given multiple contradictory statements about the contribution.

The foundation is the chief fundraising arm for UNM but is a legally separate not-for-profit entity.

“Due to the foundation’s many contradictory statements and unwillingness to identify the ‘anonymous donor,’ I would like to see the unedited records (listed in the search warrant) to further investigate possible violations of the State of New Mexico Government Conduct Act … which requires all public officials to conduct themselves in an ethical manner in advancement of the public trust,” special agent Antonio Vargas wrote in the affidavit.

A judge authorized a wide-ranging search and seizure of foundation records covering the period from May 1, 2017, to July 31, 2017. That included donor record databases; records related to online credit card transactions; communication from donors regarding restricted and unrestricted gifts during the time period; and all documents detailing foundation personnel discussions about a number of people and subjects, including the Scotland trip, Pit suites, Krebs, former Lobo Club Executive Director Kole McKamey, and former Lobo men’s basketball head coach Craig Neal.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the specifics of the search or what was found, saying it would be “inappropriate” at this time.

“The public is aware that the Office of the Attorney General has an open investigation relating to UNM, and we can confirm that special agents did serve a search warrant on Sept. 5th at the UNM Foundation,” David Carl said in an email to the Journal.

Balderas launched an investigation into UNM in May 2017 after media began uncovering and reporting the details about the Scotland excursion. He has continuously broadened its scope but he said last month that there is no timetable for its conclusion.

UNM spent nearly $64,000 in public money on the Scotland trip – and Krebs ultimately acknowledged that about $25,000 helped pay for three private donors to attend.

But Krebs also said in a May 23, 2017, public statement that an anonymous donor had given $25,000 to repay the university for the trip costs.

That triggered immediate questions from the media, including public records requests that were not met, according to the affidavit. The Journal asked four times between May 25 and July 27, 2017, for a copy of the check and any proof the donor made it specifically to repay UNM for the Scotland trip. UNM never provided that information.

The Office of the State Auditor also had questions. On July 25, 2017, it asked the foundation to verify the donation’s source, the affidavit says.

The following day, at 2:01 p.m., Allen said the donor had been contacted and indicated the gift was to “support the stewardship and development efforts associated with the athletic department 2015 fundraising trip to Scotland.” Eleven minutes later, Krebs emailed his wife asking her to print and hand-deliver a letter to Ryan at the foundation office. The letter he included – signed only “The Donor” – used the same language to describe the $25,000 donation. Krebs told his wife that Ryan was expecting the letter and it should have “no name, return address or anything associated with us on the letter or envelope” and “not be traceable if public.” After she replied that she would deliver it, Krebs responded “No trace to us. Larry expecting. Delete everything I sent when done so nothing discoverable in (public records) request. Including from your delete file. Thanks,” according to emails released by the AG’s Office.

But Ryan and Allen have since contradicted the Krebs emails that indicated the donor’s intentions were announced via a hand-delivered letter, according to the affidavit.

Ryan said the donor – whom he knew but would not identify – called and made the donation via credit card to help cover the Scotland trip costs. He said there was never any additional contact, no in-person discussion about the donation and no related office visit. He said the donor communicated about the gift and its purpose “only over the phone and (Ryan) stated there was never anything in writing from the donor … contradicting the email and letter from Paul and Marjori Krebs,” the affidavit states.

When asked for a copy of the credit card transaction and the receipt given for the donor’s tax purposes, Allen sent a copy of the credit card transaction with the name redacted – and a copy of the letter Paul Krebs sent to his wife for delivery to the foundation “despite Mr. Ryan stating there was never anything in writing from the ‘donor’ or him having any contact with the ‘donor’ after the initial phone call,” the affidavit says.

Allen said the letter had come via email but gave a different account after he was asked for the email’s date and time stamp.

“Mr. Allen said he spoke with Larry Ryan and discovered that it in fact was not an email but was a hand-delivered letter to him from the ‘donor,’ again contradicting his earlier statement saying there was nothing in writing reference (sic) the donation and that he had no contact after the initial phone call,” the document says.

Messages to Paul Krebs and messages to a UNM Foundation spokeswoman were not returned late Thursday.

 

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