ST. LOUIS — A former employee of St. Louis Community College admitted on Wednesday that he’d siphoned off $7.5 million in job-training funds over 20 years and made millions more investing the money.
Donald L. Robison, 57, agreed as part of a plea deal in federal court in St. Louis to forfeit $11 million, including the profits of his scheme. The money will go to the state of Missouri and the college.
It is an unusual situation for a federal fraud case, lawyers said. In many cases, defendants have spent much of the money before being caught. But Jeff Pittman, chancellor of St. Louis Community College, said it would be difficult to estimate the value of what the job-training program lost.
“It’s hard to say just how many people this money could have been used to train, to advance them in their careers, to improve their household income, to help employers be more competitive,” Pittman said.
“He damaged a lot of parties,” Pittman said, also listing the college, the state and taxpayers.
Robison was manager of corporate services for the college’s Workforce Solutions Group at the time of his crimes and disbursed money from a job-training fund. The money was supposed to help train employees for companies seeking to expand in Missouri or to move here.
He was hired in 1992 to manage the new training program and was later also put in charge of the retained-jobs program. In 1999, he registered a company, MS Services, and began submitting false documents seeking reimbursement for training that the company had not provided, according to his guilty plea. He then moved the stolen money from the company’s account into his personal account, and then into investment accounts.
The college sued Robison in St. Louis County Circuit Court on April 30, alleging he stole $5.4 million, and sought a freeze on his bank accounts. (Later, investigators learned the stolen amount was $7.5 million).
At the time, a college official said Robison had been suspended without pay. The college notified authorities after another employee noticed financial irregularities.
“We’ve literally been meeting almost every day since this was discovered in April,” Pittman said.
Robison, through his lawyer, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in his response to the suit.
Robison pleaded on Wednesday to five counts of wire fraud, five of mail fraud and five money laundering charges. All are felonies.
Pittman said the college was “very happy” with the plea.
Robison could face roughly six to seven years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
The college’s lawyer, Christopher Pickett, said the lawsuit would continue.