DA: No charges for Crowder in UNC fraud case

Mar. 04, 2014 @ 08:07 PM

The prosecutor leading an investigation into fraud in an academic department at North Carolina says a retired administrator tied to the case won't face charges.

In a news release Tuesday, Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall said Deborah Crowder from the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department is cooperating with investigators. She also will cooperate with a school-sanctioned independent investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth L. Wainstein, announced by the school last month.

The problems in the department included classes with significant athlete enrollments that didn't meet and were treated as independent study work requiring only a research paper, as well as unauthorized grade changes dating to the late 1990s.

Two school investigations blamed Crowder and ex-chairman Julius Nyang'oro. Nyang'oro was charged in December for receiving $12,000 to teach a summer 2011 lecture course filled with football players and instead treating it as an independent study requiring a paper.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Woodall said he didn't expect anyone else to be charged in the case.

"You can never say never, understand that, because of course information can come up that I'm unaware of," Woodall said. "But at this point, I don't anticipate anybody else being charged."

The school had said Wainstein would look into any additional information that might become available through Woodall's criminal probe, which was conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation. The school said Wainstein would then "take any further steps necessary to address questions left unanswered" in previous reviews about how irregularities took place.

Crowder, who retired in September 2009, hasn't cooperated with previous school investigations. Woodall wouldn't say what Crowder has told investigators about the fraud or why Nyang'oro was charged and she wasn't.

Brian Vick, Crowder's attorney, issued a statement saying she looked forward to cooperating with Wainstein's investigation.

"She believes that it is important for the full and unvarnished truth to come out and intends to provide Mr. Wainstein with as much knowledge as she has about the independent study classes that were offered during her tenure with the Department of African and Afro-Studies at UNC," Vick said.

Wainstein led last year's outside review of the NCAA's botched handling of the Miami investigation connected to booster Nevin Shapiro. The former U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., Wainstein also was named Homeland Security Advisor by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Woodall said the focus of the SBI investigation was more about whether crimes were committed than how academic fraud took place. He said Crowder hasn't yet met with Wainstein and that he has conferred with him a few times.

"Really what I would be able to share with them is helping them sort of head in the right direction," Woodall said, "so they don't have to go back over avenues that have already been covered when we know that would be fruitless for them."

The discovery of irregularities was an offshoot of an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the football program. The academic violations in the NCAA case, which began in summer 2010, centered on a tutor providing too much help on papers and led to sanctions in March 2012.

A previous inquiry at UNC conducted by former Gov. Jim Martin in 2012 found problems in more than 200 courses in the department dating to at least 1997, including the lecture classes that didn't meet and possibly forged signatures on grade rolls.

The NCAA told the school as recently as September that it has no plans for charges or additional investigation. The agency that accredits UNC said in June that it wouldn't sanction the school.