A Charlotte man who worked at UNC Charlotte for five years has agreed to plead guilty to bilking the school of more than $829,000, U.S. Justice Department officials said Wednesday.
Sam Hanna, 62, had been employed for five years at UNCC as a Facilities Engineer Specialist and was responsible for soliciting bids and selecting outside contractors for work at UNCC, prosecutors said.
He was charged with one count of federal program theft conspiracy and has agreed to enter a guilty plea, according to prosecutors. The total amount involved in the case was $829,807, according to prosecutors.
The federal government was involved in the investigation because the university receives federal assistance in the form of grants, loans and subsidies.
According to court paperwork, Hanna used his position and authority to award no-bid contracts to a pair of companies owned by people who were identified by the government as co-conspirators. In his position at the school, Hanna had the authority to award contracts of less than $30,000 without going through the bidding process.
Prosecutors say one of the companies, known as Air Handling Equipment Enterprises, was owned by Hannas son-in-law. The second company was known as Air Motion Systems, the government said.
In documents filed in the case, the government alleged that Hanna, who worked at UNCC from 2006 to 2011, awarded contracts to the two companies. The companies did little or no actual work, prosecutors said, but Hanna is accused of issuing fraudulent invoices from the school.
Court records show that the two companies deposited $413,170 in a company owned by Hanna, called Air Touch Systems. Prosecutors say Hanna used the money for payments on several consumer lines of credit, along with mortgage payments for his home, and to make purchases from Dish Network, Anne Taylor and Verizon.
Paul Nowell, a spokesman for UNCC, said university staff members possible misuse of funds through the universitys system of internal controls and audits.
The university promptly notified law enforcement agencies, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, the FBI, the SBI, and the U.S. Attorneys Office, Nowell said.
UNCCs campus police also were involved in the investigation.
Nowell said Hanna was separated from UNCC employment last July 23, although a database of state employees shows Hanna already had been suspended without pay a year ago.
No date has been set for sentencing, but Hanna faces a maximum prison term of five years and a $250,000 fine. He has agreed to make full restitution, according to prosecutors, although that amount has not been determined.
As a Facilities Engineer Specialist, Hanna earned an annual salary of $54,426, according to state employee records.
A check of criminal records shows no previous charges or judgments against Hanna or his company, Air Touch Systems.
The Observers Maria David contributed