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Former law school official admits stealing funds

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / October 7, 2011

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A former administrator at New England Law Boston admitted yesterday that he used a school computer to embezzle just over $173,000 from the law school over a period of 2 1/2 years, according to court documents.

Douglas Leman, 46, of Lynnfield, the former controller at the school, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to charges of accessing a protected computer to defraud and obtain value and making, uttering, or possessing a forged security.

According to court documents, Leman, a 17-year employee of the school, used his work computer to get access to the school’s accounting system between September 2008 and March 2011. During that time, he created 68 false checks for a total of $173,106.71 in school funds, which he deposited into his personal bank account, records show.

His lawyer, Scott Gediman of Everett, declined to comment yesterday when asked if Leman was having money problems before he launched the scheme. He said his client has no prior criminal record.

“Doug’s a good man who made a mistake,’’ Gediman said. “He acknowledged it, and he took responsibility for it.’’

A spokeswoman for the school, formerly called the New England School of Law, could not be reached for comment last night.

The school, located in downtown Boston, is “an educational community noted for substantive instruction with a strong foundation in ethics,’’ according to its website. The 103-year-old institution offers full-time and part-time instruction, the site says.

As part of his scheme, Leman created false charges on the accounts of former students and then issued checks payable to him or his wife against the accounts, records show.

He would use the signature stamps of other employees to sign the checks without their approval, according to court documents.

Leman also issued reimbursement checks to himself and his wife for false expenses, prosecutors said, and he would reenter the accounting system to hide his illegal activity.

In the case of the student accounts, he would eliminate the charges by reducing tuition or writing off a charge as bad debt, according to court documents.

Leman’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13. According to a plea deal filed in court papers, he has agreed to ask for a prison term of no less than one year. He has also pledged not to challenge any prison term handed down that is 18 months or less, the agreement states.

Court documents do not explicitly state how much prison time prosecutors will seek, though the government has agreed to recommend a jail term at the low end of sentencing guidelines, records show.

Prosecutors will also recommend that Leman be ordered to pay restitution of $173,106.71 to the law school and $970 to the Lynnfield Metco Program, as well as serve a three-year term of supervised release, according to court papers.

Leman faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, as well as up to three years of supervised release and a maximum fine of about $350,000, plus restitution and property forfeiture, documents show.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.