Lu Hardin pleads to wire fraud, money laundering UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lu Hardin pleads to wire fraud, money laundering UPDATE

Posted By on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 9:18 AM

HEADING TO COURT: Lu Hardin and his wife, Mary.

Lu Hardin, the former president of the University of Central Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Little Rock this morning to two federal felony charges — wire fraud and money laundering.

He appeared before Judge James Moody.

UPDATE: I asked if today's charges signaled the end of the investigation of UCA finances during the Hardin era. The prepared response from U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer:

“Today’s plea signals an end into our office’s investigation of Mr. Hardin. We have no comment on the existence or extent of any other investigations as they may relate to UCA finances.”

Also, a request to the State Police for its records on the Hardin investigation was denied. It views its joint investigation with the FBI at UCA as "ongoing."

As expected, the charges related to a scheme Hardin devised to get a 2005 $300,000 deferred compensation package paid out early, in spring of 2008. As earlier reporting has revealed, Hardin persuaded the Board of Trustees to pay him early in part on the strength of a supporting document he'd dictated to his secretary over the names of three top UCA officials: vice president for administration Jack Gillean, executive vice president Barbara Anderson, and Vice President for finance Paul McLendon. Anderson, McLendon and Gillean said they had nothing to do with the document. He also dictated a memo that was meant to appear that it came from the chairman of the board of trustees on release of $300,000 to Hardin. Prosecutor Pat Harris said Hardin instructed his secretary to destroy evidence that showed he'd prepared the notes. In addition to being charged for the scheme to defraud, Hardin was charged with using interstate commerce to sending three cashier checks totaling $47,500 to pay debts.

Here is a copy of the statement of information prepared by prosecutors, which outlines the charges. Hardin waived a formal indictment by pleading guilty. Here, too, is the U.S. attorney's news release.

Harris said Hardin used the money to pay off debt in another state. He didn't reveal further details, but our sources have said Hardin was believed to have significant debts from gambling at casinos in Tunica, Miss. Harris said that information about the nature of the debts would likely be revealed at sentencing. But the information released noted that Hardin's drawdown of retirement funds and borrowing from banks hadn't been sufficient to reduce the larger debt.

No sentencing date has been set. Hardin was ordered to surrender his passport, but was released. The charges carry maximum penalties of 20 and 10 years, respectively, and $250,000 fines. Hardin repaid the bonus (he got $198,000 after UCA withheld taxes) and eventually negotiated a severance deal to resign from UCA, so restitution won't be part of the final sentence. Hardin's attorney said he hoped for a fair sentence and Hardin said he hoped various factors, including his guilty plea, could result ina downward departure in the eventual sentencing.

Since no indictment was filed, it will be time before we can fill in details of the sad fall of a man whose personal salesmanship created a huge buzz and growth at UCA, but ended in a hail of controversy. In the years since Hardin's departure, other accounting questions have arisen about methods used to build student enrollment, among other issues.

Hardin entered the courthouse at 9:25 a.m. this morning. He walked hand-in-hand with his wife Mary and was accompanied by his son Scooter and his lawyer, Chuck Banks.

He resigned abruptly Friday as president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. He had told friends earlier that he had assured Palm Beach officials that if anything untoward developed from the Arkansas investigation, he would resign immediately. He became president of the church-related Florida school in 2009.

The federal Grand Jury investigation had also tracked a trail of public and private money used to pay the UCA football coach in excess of the state salary cap, but that wasn't mentioned in the morning's proceedings.

Sources have said for months that Hardin's desire for higher pay was linked to his personal financial situation. He was known, for example, as a player of high-dollar slot machines at Tunica casinos, where Arkansans had seen him on occasion, sometimes wearing sunglasses. Hardin, whose professed religious roots had been evidenced as a state senator when he crafted legislation making it harder to vote counties wet for alcohol sales, reportedly told friends that he didn't view slots as gambling, but a form of entertainment. Hardin ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate as a Democrat, then changed to the Republican party and became head of the Higher Education Department under Gov. Mike Huckabee. He continued to harbor political ambitions, aiming for a race for governor or senator before the UCA situation blew up. His final days at UCA were further complicated by his treatment for cancer of the eye.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (30)

Showing 1-30 of 30

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-30 of 30

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Womack gets questions. He doesn't answer

    The resistance mustered a turnout for a rare public appearance by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, which meant a ferry ride from Peel, Ark., and a drive almost to Missouri. He didn't seem happy to see them.
    • Aug 22, 2017
  • Democratic Party calls for resignation of Jake Files

    The Arkansas Democratic Party says Republican Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith should resign over news about handling of state General Improvement Fund money that wound up with him, not the project for which it was intended.
    • Aug 22, 2017
  • Rutledge touts effort to allow discrimination against gay people

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is braying about her intervention in yet another out-of-state lawsuit — this one to protect a Washington state florist who doesn't want to sell flowers to gay people for use at their wedding.
    • Aug 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • More on how highways were used to wipe out "blight" of non-white neighborhoods

    Vox, a news website that concerns itself with energy and other issues, has a fine piece, including before and after images, on the history of the U.S. interstate system and why roads were built through the middle of cities (unless people of influence stopped them — see Manhattan, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.)
    • Mar 22, 2016
  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Judge anticipates punishment of lawyers in Fort Smith class action case

    Federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith issued a 32-page ruling yesterday indicating he contemplates punishment of 16 lawyers who moved a class action lawsuit against an insurance company out of his court to a state court in Polk County after a settlement had been worked out.
    • Apr 15, 2016

Most Shared

Most Viewed

  • Troubles mount for Sen. Jake Files. Maybe others, too

    Sen. Jakes Files has serious problems, based on an FBI affidavit filed Monday in Fort Smith. One new question is how many other legislators have problems based on spending of state surplus money?
  • Democratic Party calls for resignation of Jake Files

    The Arkansas Democratic Party says Republican Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith should resign over news about handling of state General Improvement Fund money that wound up with him, not the project for which it was intended.
  • Womack gets questions. He doesn't answer

    The resistance mustered a turnout for a rare public appearance by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, which meant a ferry ride from Peel, Ark., and a drive almost to Missouri. He didn't seem happy to see them.
  • Artist Dale Chihuly's court battle

    Dale Chihuly, the visionary artist whose work is currently on exhibit at Crystal Bridges, is the subject of a New York Times feature today about an ongoing court battle and the condition of the 75-year-old artist.
  • Confederate memories of a Southern boy

    Confederate memories. How a Son of the South went wrong — or right, depending on your point of view.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation