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State Auditor: manager defrauded UW Med Center of $252,059

by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2011

SUMMARY: Echoing criminal charges already filed in King County Superior Court, a fraud investigation report issued today by the office of Washington State Auditor Brian Sontag and addressed to new UW President Michael Young says a former manager at the University of Washington Medical Center used his work credit card, work travel account and unearned paid leave to defraud his employer of more than $250,000. A police raid on his apartment turned up dozens of personal items paid for with the work credit card, including furniture, artwork and consumer electronics. The University’s policies allowed him to approve his own expenditures. In today’s auditor’s report, the University states it has since put new safeguards in place, and is in the process of recovering the money lost. The employee, Elisha Lang, had previously been terminated and later admitted to personal use of the work credit card. Criminal charges against him are already pending, as reported by The Seattle Times. According to information provided today by the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Lang’s attorneys appear in court Wednesday August 31 and are expected to either set a trial date or request a continuance for more time to negotiate a settlement. Lang pled not guilty at an April court appearance, after 19 charges of felony theft were filed against him.

KEY LINK: University of Washington Fraud Investigation Report, Washington State Auditor, August 29, 2011.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • A former administrative manager at the University of Washington Medical Center used his employer-issued procurement card, the department’s corporate travel account, and unearned leave pay to misappropriate $252,059 from June 2008 to April 2010.
  • The former employee was identified by the State Auditor’s Office as Elisha Lang, and a university police document (link at bottom) states he was Administrative Manager to the Executive Director of the UW Medical Center. The auditor’s report states a search of his residence yielded $43,000 worth of personal goods purchased with the University’s procurement card. Among the dozens of items seized were furniture, artwork, kitchen and bathroom accessories, laptop computers, speakers, music players, a blue ray DVD player, digital picture frames and flat screen TVs. Total improper purchases with the procurement card were $204,340.
  • Lang used his work procurement card and travel account not only to buy personal goods, but also for personal airfare, ground transportation and lodging. He fraudulently sought and received reimbursement totaling $39,350 for personal travel and also travel by another University employee. Additionally, Lang was paid $6,757 for 201 hours of annual leave he had not earned, and received another $1,612 in reimbursements for other personal items or items already reimbursed.
  • Lax internal controls at the university’s medical center contributed to the problems, according to the auditor’s report. The medical center didn’t review Lang’s expenses or require him to submit receipts and – as for other authorized employees – allowed him to approve his own expenditures. He also sent a falsified email to the procurement card office on behalf of the medical center’s chief financial officer, requesting an increase to the spending limit on his procurement card.
  • To get the unearned leave pay, Lang didn’t submit required leave slips and sent emails requesting time off to the medical center’s executive director, who failed to properly reconcile the amount of leave taken with Lang’s timesheet.
  • The University first contacted the state auditor’s office about the case in April of 2010 and terminated Lang a month later. He subsequently acknowledged personal use of his employee’s procurement card, in an interview with University police. The University has recovered $136,995 from its insurance company, $53,358 from its credit card company and is seeking restitution from Lang for the balance. To address weaknesses exposed in Lang’s case, the University says it has beefed up oversight of employee procurement card and travel expenses by adding another level of review and hiring an internal control analyst in medical center accounting to conduct related “periodic examinations.” The University is also now training medical center and other staff in proper use of procurement cards; and has instituted new forms and procedures for medical center time-off requests.

RELATED: University of Washington Police Department Report, in King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Certification for Determination of Probable Cause, case of Elisha Lang, March 18, 2011

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