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Former employee sentenced to prison

Former Drake University Director of Student Accounts Robert Harlan was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday morning for embezzling over $600,000 from the university.

Harlan, 49, was an employee at Drake for 20 years. He spent his last 10 years at the university as the director of student accounts. Many students remembered Harlan for the emails he sent to students alerting them their university bill was due.

In April 2011, Harlan was charged with five counts of first-degree theft. He pleaded guilty on Sept. 26 under a plea agreement to consolidate those five counts into one. First-degree theft is classified as a Class C felony, with each count carrying a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

According to The Des Moines Register, his embezzlement lasted about seven years and netted more than $621,000. Harlan said he spent most of the money on his family and various charities. The money he embezzled was deemed as petty cash through the university and no student accounts were compromised.

Vice President of business and finance, Victoria Payseur delivered a statement at his sentencing about how his fraud took away trust and integrity from the university.

“It will take the Drake University community and its students a long time to recover from Harlan’s crime,” Payseur said according to a report in the Register.

Harlan spoke briefly at his sentencing, according the Register. He asked for probation from the court. If he was granted probation, he said he “would not disappoint” the court.

Harlan will soon be eligible for parole. For now, according to the Register, it appears that he will spend less than five years in prison.

Employees of Drake’s Cashier’s Office first noticed the discrepancies in the financial records in March 2011.

On March 28, university officials contacted the police to further the investigation into the matter. On April 14, Payseur sent out a campus-wide email stating the embezzlement had happened and an unnamed employee had been fired. Investigators then identified Harlan as a suspect, and he turned himself in to police April 21.

The insurance company that covers Drake — Employers Mutual Casualty Co. — is seeking at least $616,000 from Harlan in this matter.

Drake University officials were not available for comment at the time of publication.

Timeline of events

March 28 — Police notified by Drake

April 14 — Campus-wide email sent out

April 21 — Harlan turned himself in

Sept. 26 — Pleaded guilty

Nov. 8 — Sentenced to 10 years in prison


Horsch is a junior news/Internet and rhetoric double major. She serves as the TD's Editor-in-Chief. She has been on staff for three years and has been the editor since January 2012.

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