A former official at Southeastern University in Lakeland faces 20 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty last week to defrauding the university.
Brian Carroll, 46, pled to one count of wire fraud for creating a false corporation and then getting the university to hire that corporation for a marketing project. A sentencing date has not been set.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Carroll was working as the executive vice president of Southeastern, a small Christian university in Lakeland with about 2,300 students on campus, when he created a corporation in New Mexico and opened a bank account and an email address in the company’s name.
The justice department says Carroll’s duties at the university included being its chief operating officer and that he was responsible for strategy, financial operations and legal affairs.
Sometime in 2016, the university’s leadership decided that it was interested in rebranding and updating its web image. Carroll was one of the officials tasked to oversee the project and in his official role secretly hired the New Mexico company he’d created and controlled to do the work.
The justice department does not make clear, nor did it reply to an email asking, if the company was created in response to the project or if the company was already in place at the time the project was launched.
The department says that over a six-month period, Carroll’s corporation generated a contract and produced invoices for work that was actually being done by a New York company he had hired.
The scheme was discovered only after Southeastern had spent more than $180,000 on the project. At that time, university officials learned the real cost of the project was about $30,000 less than it had been charged.
Carroll was immediately suspended, and his contract was terminated in early 2017.
The case was investigated by the FBI and local police.
Southeastern did not respond to a request for comment.