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ATM withdrawals at core of Lobo hoops staffer’s leave of absence

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico is continuing to investigate more than $50,000 in cash withdrawals by a Lobo men’s basketball staff member using the team’s purchasing card.

UNM is still “four to six weeks” away from completing the internal audit and deciding whether to pursue criminal charges against Cody Hopkins, the team’s director of operations, who has been on leave since December, UNM officials said.

However, UNM has sent the state auditor a notification of a possible criminal violation.

A Dec. 18 email from UNM internal audit director Manu Patel obtained by the Journal indicates the university could not account for $55,400 in ATM withdrawals from July 5 to Dec. 9, 2015, and there were missing receipts for purchases and travel in that time from the team’s “P-card” made by Hopkins.

Hopkins, who has been the director of operations since Sept. 1, 2014 and has an annual salary of $76,500, is responsible for purchasing and payment for travel, hotels, food and incidentals for the team, according to UNM.

A Dec. 21 email from Patel indicates: “Some of these (ATM) withdrawals may be related to recruitment expenses, payments to players during the fall and Thanksgiving breaks, etc.; however we still need an accurate accounting for these ATM withdrawals.”

UNM officials declined this week to say how much money remains unaccounted for or whether Hopkins has paid any of it back.

Attempts to reach Hopkins for comment were unsuccessful, and a telephone message left with Texas-based attorney Gaines West, who the Journal has been told is representing Hopkins, has not been returned.

“It won’t go higher than that, we suspect,” UNM President Robert G. Frank said when asked whether $55,400 was accurate. “We feel it will be less than that, but that’s why we do the audit. … We’re doing the investigation to determine the amount. We know there’s a shortage. We don’t know that amount.”

There is no indication any NCAA violations are suspected to have occurred, though UNM hasn’t said whether it knows what the unaccounted for cash might have been used for. A background check conducted by UNM shows no past criminal activity for Hopkins.

A log of purchases made on the “P-card” issued to Hopkins that was reviewed by the Journal showed numerous cash withdrawals from Bank of America. Included were 54 withdrawals in the amount of $800 posted between July 5 and Dec. 9 — several coming on the same day or within a couple of days of each other. There were also withdrawals for other amounts, though no other dollar figure appeared more than a few times.

Frank and athletic director Paul Krebs told the Journal that cash withdrawals are not uncommon for the men’s basketball “P-card” based on the amount of travel, not only during the season but for recruiting in the offseason.

“There’s a lot of things people have to handle,” Frank said. “A simple example could be tipping a bus driver that drives them around. Cody was in the position to handle those types of things.”

Frank said on conclusion of the audit, the findings will be forwarded to the UNM Police Department to determine whether a crime was committed.

On Dec. 21 UNM sent notification to New Mexico Auditor Tim Keller “in accordance with state statute … providing notification of possible criminal statute violation.”

While the statute that requires UNM to notify the State Auditor’s Office also says the “notification shall include an estimate of the dollar amount involved, and a complete description of the violation,” UNM’s notification included neither. A response from the State Auditor’s Office, however, said UNM was in compliance with the state statute.

Hopkins previously served as an assistant coach at Texas-Pan American and for three years as operations director at TCU.

Frank added that, while he can’t speak yet on specifics of the Hopkins case, the audit includes an attempt to “look at our entire procedures to see if this is a person problem, a system problem or is it a person and system problem.”

UNM men’s basketball coach Craig Neal, Hopkins’ direct supervisor, told the Journal on Thursday that he could not comment on the case while the audit is ongoing.

Hopkins, who is still listed on the team’s website as the director of operations, has not been replaced, and his duties have been disbursed among several other people on the current staff.

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