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

  • Sunday and another open line

    Got anything for the open line?
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • But what about the Clintons? Last refuge of Trump, New York Times

    Trying to compare Donald Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation with Bill Clinton's dealings with Kenneth Starr should be a non-starter if the facts mattered. But these days — and to the New York Times — it ain't necessarily so.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • Football is king, Bentonville edition

    Good analysis in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of an unannounced Bentonville School Board vote last week to put $2 million into a football stadium for West High School despite board assurances in last May's tax election that no money would go to a football stadium.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Al Gore remembers Dale Bumpers

    Former Vice President Al Gore, a former U.S. Senate colleague of Dale Bumpers, sent a statement on Bumpers' death Friday:
    • Jan 3, 2016
  • Is Arkansas in or out on Kobach voter data effort?

    The Washington Post has published a map that counts Arkansas as among states that will "partially comply" with a sweeping request for voter data by the so-called election integrity commission set up by Donald Trump in an effort to cast doubt on Hillary Clinton's 3 million-vote popular defeat of him in 2016.
    • Jul 2, 2017
  • In Little Rock, Marco Rubio sells American exceptionalism

    This is Rubio's axiomatic answer to Donald Trump's insistence that he and he alone will Make America Great Again: America is the greatest, always has been.
    • Feb 22, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sunday and another open line

    • Gftra - I have a 98% Golden/2% Chow that goes practically everywhere I do. He…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Sunday and another open line

    • A new word for today--"Whatabouism" Yes, there is even a Wikipedia entry that describes it…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Sunday and another open line

    • Biggins : I'm sure your golden retriever was at the hospital to do the lab…

    • on July 23, 2017

Blogroll

 

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