Audit suggests fraud by former Lobo hoops staffer

A five-month audit of unreconciled purchases and cash withdrawals on a University of New Mexico purchasing card showed both systemic failures and possible fraudulent activity by former men’s basketball director of operations Cody Hopkins.

“It is a situation with a person who engaged in potential fraud, and we had some systems that weren’t as tight as they should have been,” UNM President Robert G. Frank told the Journal on Thursday

. “… It is very disappointing when you see human failures like this. We’re going to do our best to improve our systems.”

The audit report is expected to be made public Friday and forwarded to both the state auditor’s office and the campus police department, which could take the next step in determining whether there will be criminal charges pursued against Hopkins. He has lived in his home state of Texas since going on leave from the university in December.

A request for comment from Hopkins was declined Thursday, and his Albuquerque-based attorney Paul Kennedy did not return messages seeking comment.

An exact dollar figure of what remains unreconciled remains unclear, but the Journal has learned it is more than $50,000 in some combination of purchases and ATM cash withdrawals. It remains unclear what level of participation Hopkins and his attorneys had in the audit to help reconcile some of the transactions.

An email from UNM’s internal audit director from December indicated initial findings showed $55,400 in unreconciled ATM withdrawals between July 5 and Dec. 9, 2015. A Journal review of Hopkins’ “P-card” activity in that time showed 54 ATM withdrawals of $800 in that time.

UNM policy calls for all “P-card” activity to be reconciled within 30 days. For Hopkins’ case to have grown to more than $50,000 over a five-month period highlights some of the systemic issues that both Frank and UNM athletic director Paul Krebs acknowledge are being addressed since December.

There were no findings of NCAA violations nor evidence of other employees on the basketball staff or in the athletics department being involved.

“This was an isolated act of one individual,” said Krebs. “There were systems in place (to monitor and safeguard against such actions). The systems need to be stronger and will be stronger and we’re in the process of that.”

Krebs declined further comment on the audit’s findings until it is made public other than to emphasize that while improvement in the department’s handling of such matters is a must, “the system caught it.”

The findings of the internal audit were accepted Thursday in a closed-door session of the Board of Regents Audit and Compliance Committee. Among those athletics department employees in attendance were Krebs, Lobos basketball coach Craig Neal and associate athletic director for finance Michale Marcelli.

Ryan Berryman, UNM’s student regent who usually serves on the committee and moved from student manager to acting operations director in Hopkins’ absence over the final three months of the 2015-16 season, recused himself from Thursday’s meeting and was not in attendance.

Hopkins, 33, was director of operations from Sept. 1, 2014, through March 31 when his contract expired, and he had an annual salary of $76,500. He was not fired from UNM as a result of the case. His job duties including being responsible for purchasing and payment for travel, hotels, food and incidentals for the team and staff.

Athletics has the same “P-card” policy as the rest of the university, Frank said, though he acknowledged the demands of travel for many of the teams with large travel parties, including regular meal money for student-athletes, mean it isn’t unusual for cash transactions to be used more frequently than in other departments on campus.

“We have already looked closely at systems and have started making some changes, including making the windows for transaction reconciliation much shorter,” Frank said.

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