Alleged theft findings at UofL turned over to federal prosecutors

Mark Hebert
Mark Hebert
Dr. James Ramsey
Dr. James Ramsey

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Earlier this year, we reported that coordinator of the University of Louisville's Equine Industry Program, had been fired for allegedly stealing. Now, we know the amount - about a half million dollars. Alisha Ward has not been charged yet, but it is likely the case will move to federal court because the findings have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

From breeding to running racetracks, UofL's Equine Industry Program serves as the only one in the world to offer an accredited business degree. But the business of checks and balances apparently got left in the starting gate.

"Certainly it's embarrassing to the equine industry program that this has happened," said Mark Hebert, a University of Louisville spokesman.

It's an embarrassment around a half million dollars - $463,000 to be exact and another $88,000 in questionable expenses. It is money internal auditors believe was stolen by Ward.

"She (Ward) got caught when a contractor picked up the phone and called the University of Louisville and said, 'hey, I just got a 1099 form from the IRS telling me I got some income from the University of Louisville,'" said Hebert.

According to Hebert, Ward used the contractor's name on documents to defraud UofL, wrote checks to herself, set up PayPal accounts and used a university credit card to make some interesting purchases that ranged from lingerie to shoes, a motorcycle and repairs to her home. University officials say Ward used the money as if it was her own.

So how did it go unnoticed for some four years? Hebert said Ward's supervisor, Richard Wilcke, trusted her to handle the financials and never caught it. However, Hebert maintains the lack of oversight by Wilcke is not cause for termination.

"We decided at this point that the director should not be fired as a faculty member," said Hebert.

Wilcke resigned his position as June 1, 2011, but remains a teacher.

In a statement, Dr. James Ramsey, UofL president, said in part, "The failure to provide proper oversight of funds in the equine industry program is inexcusable."

Ramsey has put together a task force on accountability and expects to have a report soon.

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