A former employee of the University of Missouri’s Southwest Research Center pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling $716,665 from the University over a nine-year period.
Carla Rathmann of Mount Vernon pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of credit card fraud. Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said Rathmann faces up to 30 years in federal prison without parole.
Rathmann, 54, was fired in September after a new superintendent at the Center became suspicious of her financial activities and her unwillingness to share financial information with him. After noting she was making personal transactions using her university credit card, she was fired and an internal investigation began. The Highway Patrol and FBI later became involved.
Rathmann admitted to submitting fake and fraudulent invoices to the university and to using her university card for about $146,144 in personal expenses.
The University says its insurance carrier is expected to reimburse about $650,000.
Rathmann created three fake companies that were registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, listing her or her husband as the owners, but those companies never made any products or performed any services. She then submitted invoices from those companies to the university. She often then approved the invoices herself and deposited the checks from the university into her personal bank account. Those payments added up to $570,521.
Also on Monday the University released the findings of an internal audit of the Research Center. It proposed several changes within the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, in response to issues the university says kept Rathmann’s activities from being caught.
Those include obtaining pre-approvals for all CAFNR purchase orders; mandatory fiscal training and annual financial certifications for all CAFNR supervisors; requiring quarterly financial reviews for all CAFNR divisions and departments; and performing on-site visits to inspect financial processes and transactions for all remote locations, such as the Research Center.
The university says other factors that contributed to the fraud not being detected included limited staffing in a remote location; lack of an on-site superintendent for extended periods; weak internal controls; and a failure to follow university policies.
The university notes Rathmann’s former immediate supervisors have retired.