Collaboration in Civic Spheres

UW’s curious cold case: track team loses $12K cash

by Matt Rosenberg April 4th, 2012

A previously undisclosed University of Washington internal audit dated April 2011 and records of a related UW Police investigation, both recently obtained by Public Data Ferret using the Washington state Public Records Act, detail the theft of almost $12,000 in UW-dispensed cash not needed for near-term usage, from the locked file cabinet drawer of an assistant coach to the UW track team. The university to date has not solved the crime – which police and athletic staff indicated was either an inside job or had an inside connection.

$12K disappears – but another $18.6K in same place, doesn’t
The police report states that UW assistant track coach Jason Drake in late August 2010 at 5:30 one evening put in the top drawer of a metal file cabinet in his Graves Annex office 48 individually marked envelopes with $18,600 total in per diem cash allowances for team members for an upcoming out-of-town track meet. Also put into the file cabinet drawer were 55 tickets to a Dave Mathews Band concert to be used by team members, and two Bank of America money bags – one with $3,200 cash and the other with $8,707 cash – for future track team use. Two days later at 1:30 p.m. when he returned to his office he found the envelopes with the per diem allowances totaling $18,600 to be intact, along with the concert tickets. But the $11,907 divided between the two money bags was gone. The money bags that had held that cash were still in the drawer.

Public Data Ferret’s Management archive

File cabinet pried open with tool
The police report also stated that the office door was unlocked, as it had been when Drake left two days earlier, and was not damaged. A key to the locked file cabinet drawer also where it had been, in Drake’s desk drawer. Police found the file cabinet had been pried open, with the metal on the right side bent outward with a tool such as a flat tip screwdriver so the drawer could be opened without the key to the lock. Police could lift no useful fingerprints off the file cabinet.

Perp “had to have had knowledge of the money and the athlete payout”
Drake shared the office with assistant track coach Lauren Denfield. Drake told police he, Denfield and head track coach Greg Metcalf were the only ones who knew the cash was in the file cabinet. Police interviewed the three plus a series of other UW athletic officials,
According to the police report, Senior Associate Director of Intercollegiate Athletics John Morris, “said he did not suspect any of the coaches but agreed that the suspect had to have had knowledge of the money and the athlete payout.” Drake also told police he “felt it had to be somebody who had knowledge that the money was in the cabinet.”

Police suggested polygraphs, but case later inactivated
According to the police report, police investigated leads on potential suspects including a team volunteer who saw the three coaches leaving the bank on August 20, current coaches of other sports who were or might have been in the building after the money went into the file cabinet, and two former assistant coaches who left on bad terms, but none could be connected with the theft. Nor were any student athletes, although police said in their report that athletic staff should keep “eyes and ears open to anyone who appeared to have had a sudden change in fortune, or the athlete that is inexplicably throwing parties for all his friends…” The university police detective investigating the case suggested polygraph tests could help but there is no indication in the police reports they were ever given. Two months later, in October 2010, police designated the case inactivated, with no suspect identified.

Auditors highlight risky business practices, management pledges fixes
The UW internal audit said track team officials increased risks by having excess cash on hand and failing to take proper security measures. Although only $18,600 was needed in the near term they cashed checks from the university for $30,507, and then sorted and counted out the money in an office “with the door partially opened where anyone could see.” They also erred, the audit said, by putting all the money into a file cabinet that was easy to break into, several days before the $18,600 was to be distributed.

The university’s athletic department pledged to change procedures as of last October 1 by picking up and cashing checks no more than two days prior to being needed, handling cash in a secure area, locking it in a safe, and taking other steps.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News; Donate.

2 Responses to “UW’s curious cold case: track team loses $12K cash”

  1. Greenlake2 says:

    Regarding the money that wasn’t stolen: So $18,600 divided by 48 is $387 for each athlete. Either this was a very long track meet, or they had to pay for their own airfare or hotel room. If not, that seems like a very generous amount for food and incidentals.

  2. Yuma says:

    Every track team member (and business office worker that distributes the checks that the coaches cash) knows that money is usually in the hands of the coaches by Wednesday or Thursday before the team and coaches leave for away meets. What is surprising is the amount of cash in the money bags and for what purpose? But the Huskies have money to burn, don’t they?