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Former UT-Austin director indicted on counts of theft, money laundering and abuse of official capacity

A spokesman said the University of Texas at Austin has already taken steps to improve its spending procedures.

The University of Texas Law School building on Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A former director at the University of Texas at Austin, who managed facilities for the law school, was indicted this week by a Travis County grand jury on counts of theft, money laundering and abusing his official capacity — all first-degree felonies.

If convicted, the ex-employee, Jason Shoumaker, could face five to 99 years — or life — in prison, and a fine of $10,000 for each of the charges. He was released on a $100,000 bond.

“If Mr. Shoumaker has made any mistakes, we stand ready to address them,” said Perry Minton, one of Shoumaker’s attorneys. “We have been in constant contact with the district attorney’s office on this case since the time that Mr. Shoumaker was arrested.”

The charges are divided between two indictments, which allege Shoumaker directed fraudulent payments from the university to a series of contractors and to himself over the course of four years, netting a loss of at least $300,000 for the university.

The documents don’t detail the specific amount; $300,000 is the lowest threshold for a first-degree felony, but a source familiar with the matter said the questionable expenses likely top a half-million dollars.

The alleged scheme relied on Shoumaker’s misuse of contracts, invoices and procurement cards that came into his possession “by virtue” of his employment as a “public servant,” according to one indictment. The payments at issue were made between January 2013 and August 2017, and were directed to seven companies, including Central Transportation Services, Tommy’s Garage and Northpoint Commercial.

UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein said the university has already taken steps to tighten its spending procedures.

“The University of Texas takes its responsibility as a steward of public dollars extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with the district attorney as the investigation and prosecution of Mr. Shoumaker moves forward," he said.

Shoumaker worked for UT-Austin for ten years before being placed on administrative leave and terminated in November 2017 in the wake of internal complaints about his spending and performance. The university referred his case to the Travis County District Attorney’s office in the summer of 2017, and later retained an outside law firm, led by former federal prosecutor Johnny Sutton, to conduct an internal review, and recommend changes to the university’s processes.

That review, which is separate from the district attorney's case, is ongoing.

Minton said that because Shoumaker was indicted this week, the attorneys do not yet “have any of the information that we will be getting shortly to understand better what the university’s allegations are.”

Under scrutiny for fraud, Shoumaker was also arrested earlier this year on six charges of tampering with government records, his university timesheets.

An affidavit filed with a court in May said Shoumaker falsely completed past timesheets to indicate he had worked for eight hours on days when his personal credit cards were being charged in tourist destinations like the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cozumel, Mexico and Las Vegas, where he had no work duties. His alleged objective, the affidavit said, was to “obtain a larger employment separation payout than he was authorized.”

The tampering charges remain unindicted.

Sutton and Minton were players in a separate case that concluded Tuesday involving a university investigation into state Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican. Sutton’s firm was retained by the school to help with the inquiry; Minton and his brother, another lawyer, are Schwertner’s attorneys.

Sutton deferred questions to the university. His firm will be paid up to $199,000 for its work on the Shoumaker and Schwertner inquiries, according to his two contracts.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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