Robert Felner, hailed as a grant rainmaker, found himself drowning in a sea of his own doing. Last week, through his Attorney, Robert Felner pled guilty in a case in which he and a colleague are accused of defrauding University of Louisville and another university out of $2.3 million.
Hailed at the outset by University administrators as a change agent, citing him as the driving force behind a spike in grant money at the school. School officials now know that Felner is, not only a thief, but was directly responsible for only a fraction of that windfall.
A federal grand jury in Louisville indicted Felner and his co-defendant, Thomas Schroeder of Port Byron, Ill., in October 2008, charging Felner with 10 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and income tax evasion. Schroeder was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.
Government prosecutors allege that over a seven-year period the men used the Illinois-based National Center for Public Education and Prevention Inc. they created to defraud University of Louisville and the University of Rhode Island, where Felner was involved in another research center he helped create.
The government alleges the men used the Illinois center, which lists Schroeder as president, to divert funds owed to the two universities, siphoning $2.3 million.
The money was deposited in several bank accounts, including one that Felner told federal officials he set up in Louisville in the Illinois center’s name.
While Colleges and Universities across the nation are working to make sure that “ethics” becomes a fundamental core part of a business education, it seems that on every turn headlines are showing the frailties of the human condition and that even well educated folks can succumb to temptation and do unethical things. Unfortunately, this will be yet another example of ethics gone awry.
Every presentation I make to university students, from the University of Florida to University of South Dakota, to Long Island University to Baylor, I begin with the following statement: EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE.
Felner and Schroeder are now living the consequences of their choices. If there is a bright spot, hopefully the students at these universities will gain a better perspective on the effect of choices and consequences. Perhaps, just perhaps, the students, being exposed to the media attention, will connect the dots and take the ethical high road when exposed to temptation.
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