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Witte Renovation

A former UW-Madison employee allegedly stole more than $100,000 for the Division of University Housing, UW officials said Thursday. Witte Residence Hall is seen above in March 2017 when renovations began.

JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL ARCHIVES

A former UW-Madison employee stole more than $100,000 from the Division of University Housing, UW officials said Thursday.

The ex-employee defrauded the university of cash and property over a 2 ½-year period, said Jeff Novak, director of University Housing. Officials started an internal investigation in early 2017 after they became aware of the actions, Novak said.

“Any abuse of the resources entrusted to us by our residents, guests and the university cannot be tolerated,” Novak said.

The UW-Madison Police Department is recommending to the Dane County District Attorney’s Office several felony charges against the former employee, police spokesman Marc Lovicott said.

The university is withholding the former employee’s name until a decision on charges is made.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Brendon Dybdahl, a spokesman for University Housing, said the employee was terminated almost immediately after the theft was discovered in February 2017. The university notified police soon after, he said.

Dybdahl declined to comment on how the alleged fraud was initially brought to the university’s attention or what property was involved, deferring to police for comment.

Lovicott declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing.

Auditor brought in

After the alleged theft was discovered, the university hired an outside auditor to set up new financial safeguards “in hopes of preventing these kinds of abuses in the future,” officials said in a statement.

The university’s Division of Business Services “initiated several changes to campus procedures and control practices for purchasing cards and receipt policies,” the statement said.

Dybdahl said a lot of the changes were to “how purchasing cards were handled and how things are approved and who is allowed to have purchasing cards.”

“Some of that was, I would say, in response to try to correct some loopholes in the process, so this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again,” he said.

The Division of University Housing operates 19 residence halls, three apartment complexes and the seven dining locations on campus.

Logan Wroge has been a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal since 2015.