With scholarship ruse, law school assistant dean of admissions is accused of stealing $74K
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Edward Rene, the former assistant dean of admissions at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law, was charged Monday with theft by a public servant, for allegedly stealing almost $74,000 from the school.
Two students told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Rene offered them tuition scholarships and that they received additional funds in excess of the amounts. Rene allegedly directed them to reimburse the overage amounts in the form of checks, cashier’s checks or money orders made payable to him, according to the Aug. 10 criminal complaint filed by the Harris County, Texas, District Attorney.
The top charge of theft by a public servant is a second-degree felony and could include a sentence of up to 20 years, Houston Chronicle reports. Rene’s alleged crimes are said to have taken place between August 2017 and September 2019.
Joan R. M. Bullock, who has been Texas Southern’s law school dean since July 2019, told the ABA Journal in an email that Rene has been terminated.
“Since my arrival in July 2019, we have taken a hard look at our systems and processes, and we are doing what is necessary in order to ensure that we are providing an excellent legal education and learning experience to students who are deserving of our trust, commitment, and care,” she wrote.
In May, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar found that the law school remained out of compliance with Standard 501(a), which requires schools adopt, publish and adhere to sound admission policies. The notice followed an internal school investigation that found an admissions officer at the Houston-based law school admitted students who were not qualified, in exchange for kickbacks. The investigation does not name the admissions officer.
Rene’s criminal complaint does not mention admitting students in exchange for kickbacks. It focuses on two students who told a FBI agent they received scholarship money in excess of agreed amounts, and Rene told them to reimburse him directly.
In one instance, Rene told a student the excess funds would go to a foundation that helped minority students, according to the criminal complaint. The excess funds, which the student received from the fall 2017 term to the fall 2019 term, totaled $46,715, and were paid back directly to Rene, the document states.
Another student, who received $7,500 scholarships and additional payments as well, told an FBI investigator that Rene said the money was from his personal family foundation, and the student should directly pay him the additional money. There was no evidence of a family foundation, and the extra money, which added up to $26,942, was from Texas Southern’s scholarship budget, according to the criminal complaint.
Rene sent the scholarship requests to the law school’s director of administration, who forwarded them to the law school’s dean, as well as the university’s budgets executive director, its financial aid director and the law school’s financial aid counselor, the criminal complaint states. The director of administration told the FBI that no one ever questioned Rene’s funds requests, according to the document.
Updated Aug. 12 at 8:45 a.m. to add quote from Joan R. M. Bullock.