UNM: Former hoops staffer falsified documents, bilked Lobos out of up to $63,000

An audit report released Friday by the University of New Mexico indicates former men’s basketball operations director Cody Hopkins committed fraud with a team purchasing card for personal use, including $63,418 in “unallowable” activity on the card.

The report also acknowledges systemic failures — both of the athletics department and university overall — in allowing the matter to have gone unchecked for several months. But it emphasized there is no indication of potential criminal wrongdoing by anyone else at the university, and specifically on the men’s basketball team. And there is no evidence of any potential NCAA violations.

“This is an isolated act of one individual,” UNM athletic director Paul Krebs said. “… Cody was immediately placed on leave of absence when it was discovered it was more than just somebody who was (behind on bookkeeping).”

The audit has been handed over to the UNM Police Department for potential criminal investigation. The audit indicates there are no receipts or other documentation for $53,984 in ATM withdrawals from July through December 2015, as first reported by the Journal in February. The audit also indicates there are $3,600 in cash withdrawals for which the university alleges Hopkins submitted “falsified receipts” and $5,834 in purchases for personal use.

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Neither Hopkins nor his Albuquerque-based attorney Paul Kennedy has responded to requests for comment from the Journal.

Specifically noted in the audit:

■ Numerous incidents of hotel or rental car purchases on days Hopkins was not conducting business.

■ $4,800 in cash advances on May 22-24, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nev., with “no business purpose for cash advances.”

■ $7,000 in cash taken out July 2-5, including a figure that Hopkins said was for scouting services, but the providers of those services told UNM they weren’t paid.

■ Unauthorized food and alcohol purchases totaling $3,153 between July 26-29 during the team’s annual 6th Man boosters trip to Las Vegas, Nev.

■ Hopkins at one point paid back $13,772 to the UNM cashier’s office for unaccounted for cash withdrawals between December 2014 and July 2015.

The audit states there is evidence that “assistant men’s basketball coaches and a team manager stated (to auditors) that signatures on certain documents indicating cash received (by them from Hopkins) were not theirs.”

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“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 said Thursday.

Among the systemic failings the audit identified:

■ Allowing Hopkins to continue using the “P-Card” despite being as many as 110 days late in turning in reconciliation forms on previous purchases. (University “P-card” policy requires 30-day reconciliation.)

■ Athletics department business office not having sufficient written policies on “P-Card” use.

■ UNM’s “P-Card” office, which oversees use of more than 1,300 such cards campus-wide, had regular communication with Hopkins, but should have reported “issues and violations” to Hopkins’ direct supervisor, Lobo men’s basketball coach Craig Neal, who was never contacted by those reviewing Hopkins “P-Card” use.

Neal now will receive monthly briefings from the athletics business office on the expenditures made by his staff, the audit states.

UNM plans to try to recoup the lost money through its risk management division, but if that doesn’t occur before the end of the fiscal year, the $63,418 will be logged as an expense for the basketball team for budgetary purposes, according to Krebs.

Asked if Hopkins, 33, who has no financial training, was placed in a situation that was too overwhelming or even one set up for him to fail, Krebs said he did not believe so.

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“What I can say is we had a business office that offered help and support,” Krebs said. “… I think that we had the support system to help him.”

New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, whose office was notified in December by UNM of potential criminal activity, commended the university on Friday for the audit. But he also was critical of a system that allowed the matter to happen in the first place.

“We appreciate the University of New Mexico’s work on this issue and we are encouraged by their actions to investigate and resolve this situation,” Keller said. “Any time tens of thousands of public funds are unaccounted for, it speaks to an immediate need to tighten procedures and we ask the University to adopt the recommendations in their report before the end of the fiscal year. Better controls can ensure New Mexicans that our tax dollars cannot be used for personal shopping sprees. We will check whether the problems have been addressed in the University’s next annual audit.”

Hopkins held the position of operations director, with a $76,500 annual salary, from September 2014 through December 2015. He then went on leave and was paid both accrued sick and vacation time while the audit was being conducted, Krebs said. Hopkins was never fired, and his contract expired at the end of March. His job description primarily entails the handling of team travel matters with other duties. Cash withdrawals as part of his job were allowable, if documented and reconciled within 30 days.

As “P-card” activity was not being reconciled with the athletics department business office for months at a time, Krebs said people in the department were offering help to Hopkins. Krebs acknowledged Friday the matter likely should have been addressed much sooner than it was, and said policies are now in place to ensure such situations of unreconciled “P-card” activity in the future will be dealt with.

Krebs noted that from this point on, athletics department employees not reconciling “P-Card” statements within the required 30 days could be prevented from traveling with their teams until doing so.

CLICK HERE for the article that appeared in Friday’s Journal before the audit was released with other details and comments about the case.

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