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Report: Educational Trust Funds were Stolen

Report: Educational Trust Funds were Stolen

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A new state report claims the fired deputy executive director of the Utah Educational Savings Plan Trust stole thousands of dollars and tried to steal more while he was being investigated.

Dale C. Hatch was fired in July after an internal audit showed possible misuse of the group's administrative funds.

Executives called for an audit of Hatch after other employees discovered questionable transactions. State officials have said Hatch was fired for "conflict of interest, breach of trust and violations of State Board of Regents policies."

A report on the case, released Friday, claimed Hatch stole $85,500 and attempted to steal another $203,400 while being investigated. The report supports the internal investigative audit released Aug. 16 by the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, which found that Hatch made a "complex series of transactions involving 49 accounts, which resulted in funds amounting to $505,976 being paid in 16 of the 49 accounts without authorization."

The money came from administrative funds. Of the $505,976 in unauthorized funds, $420,476 remains in the 16 accounts, the report said.

The remaining $85,500 was paid to Hatch and is "considered stolen," the report said. The report found that Hatch, an attorney and certified public accountant, performed legal and tax work for clients in addition to managing the tax-deferred savings-plan for college-bound students.

"None of the money deposited by individual investors was appropriated -- no investor was harmed," said Mark Spencer, UHEAA interim executive director.

The UESP has $740 million in 48,000 individual accounts. Spencer said employees in the saving-plan program came forward when they noticed irregularities.

The audit said Hatch set up 25 college-saving accounts in his own name in 2002 for a client for whom he acted as trustee.

Hatch attempted to pay back a portion of the stolen money after he was suspended, but the $20,000 bank check was returned for "insufficient funds." In August, he sent a cashier's check for $20,000 to UESP officials with instructions to deposit the money into two accounts from which Hatch had received the allegedly stolen funds.

Hatch did not return calls seeking comment. The report has been forwarded to Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom for possible criminal charges. Yocom refused comment Friday, saying his office won't discuss pending investigations.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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