Snow College Embezzlement Tops $300,000

Snow College Embezzlement Tops $300,000

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The total amount involved in the Snow College embezzlement case tops more than $300,000, according to the state auditor.

An initial audit released in February reported that approximately $190,400 had been misappropriated by employees at the school's Richfield campus from July 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2002. Additional study of the period from Aug. 1, 1996, to July 1, 2000, brought the total to $283,600.

In addition, $27,240 in questionable credit card use was identified in the first audit.

"I hope this will completely identify all of the issues involved in the Richfield campus," said Commissioner for Higher Education Cecelia Foxley. The earlier disclosures led to strengthening of auditing procedures throughout the Utah System for Higher Education, she said. Boards of trustees have been charged to become more involved, to look for business expertise in members and participate in a training program.

Kimble Blackburn, who headed finances for Snow College/Richfield during the period of the audit, pleaded guilty in 6th District Court June 3 to 36 felony counts of diverting college funds to his personal use. Judge David Mower ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for July 15. Blackburn remains free on $25,000 bail.

Sevier County Attorney Don Brown said Thursday that the new audit findings will be considered during that hearing to determine if additional charges will be filed.

Blackburn had maintained that he did not divert any money before July 2000 and has agreed to repay $157,000 as full restitution for the funds found misappropriated in the first audit.

Snow College president Michael T. Benson, who was named to lead the college in January 2002, said the additional audit proves the problems predated the relationship between Snow and the Richfield campus, which started as a technical center.

"I hope this is the final chapter and that we can close it and go forward with building a successful program on the Richfield campus that will gain the trust and respect of taxpayers," he said.

State Auditor Auston G. Johnson says auditors still may not have uncovered the whole extent of the Snow/Richfield thefts because "financial records were either not available or were difficult or expensive to retrieve... We have identified questionable or inappropriate expenses made by several other campus employees dating back to 1992."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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