Former Head of Work-Study Program Headed to Prison
BATON ROUGE, La.The former director of Southern University’s work-study program will spend 30 months in federal prison for engineering a kickback scheme.In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson said Eloise Blount and her accomplices used the university’s work-study program as their own “personal piggy bank” for more than three years.“You benefited at the expense of students who needed this money to help themselves get an education,” Tyson said at the April 11 sentencing. Eloise Blount also must pay $169,317 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education for bilking funds from the federal Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program.Prosecutors claim that from January 1996 through May 1999, Blount and a small group of administrators recruited students to participate in the scam, then submitted falsified payroll records to pay the students for hours they did not work (see Black Issues, Aug. 16, 2001).In some cases, when the paychecks arrived, the employees received a portion of the money in return for falsifying the time sheets. In other cases, students were unaware that paychecks were written in their names, and the checks were cashed by the employees. In all, 67 students were implicated in the scam that involved nearly $170,000.One of Blount’s former assistants, Darell B. Lee, was sentenced to 10 months in prison on April 11 after cooperating with prosecutors. Another former administrator who cooperated in the investigation, Richard Wilson III, was sentenced to six months of house arrest and five years of probation. A fourth person involved in the scheme, Moses Dupre, a former academic compliance officer in the athletic department, was sentenced in November to four months of house arrest. Dupre had confessed to preparing false payroll vouchers for students in his department who didn’t work to earn the money.Southern University System Vice President Ralph Slaughter says the work-study scam actually was uncovered by the university’s internal auditor and police in late 1999.“We passed the information on to (Louisiana Legislative Auditor) Dr. (Dan) Kyle and he sent in a team to do the criminal work,” Slaughter says.In December 2000, after investigating the case for more than a year, Kyle issued a scathing report that provided a blueprint for prosecutors in the case.“This was money for needy students, and you had university personnel actively soliciting students for illegal activities. That just is unbelievable,” Kyle said.Meanwhile, Blount still faces a Southern University lawsuit that seeks to recover some $44,772 in unearned leave that she took during an eight-year period. Slaughter says Blount was paid for 3,379 hours in unearned leave over an eight-year period. Some of the bogus leave was paid to Blount after she was suspended by the school in November 1999.Slaughter says Blount took advantage of Southern University’s outdated payroll system, which does not provide employees or their supervisors with regular updates about their accumulated leave time. Slaughter says Southern University is moving to a computerized payroll system that will give updates about earned leave on employees’ paychecks and provide regular reports about accumulated leave to supervisors. — By Scott Dyer
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