Former University of Texas law school official arrested as part of ongoing fraud investigation


By Jay Root and Shannon Najmabadi

A former director at the University of Texas at Austin's law school was arrested Thursday for claiming he was showing up for work while he was actually galavanting in tourist hot spots like Cozumel, Las Vegas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to court documents and local law enforcement authorities. 

Jason Shoumaker, the law school's facilities director until November 2017, is the subject of an ongoing probe by the Travis County District Attorney's Office and the Texas Rangers. Though Shoumaker was taken into custody Thursday over tampering charges, he is at the heart of a major fraud investigation – one that potentially involves "several million dollars of questionable expenses," a source familiar with the probe said. 

UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein said the school is working closely with law enforcement authorities and is retaining outside counsel to "review all management issues and other concerns related to this case."

"We take our responsibility as stewards of public dollars extremely seriously," Susswein said. "We also continue to work together with the district attorney’s office as it investigates all matters related to this case and appreciate the work they are doing."

Shoumaker stands accused of six charges of tampering with government records – his time sheets – while on the payroll of one of the state's most prominent universities. His bond was set at $40,000 per charge, and he was asked to surrender his passport. 

A call placed to Shoumaker's civil attorney and an email sent to Shoumaker's personal account went unreturned Thursday. 

The District Attorney's office began investigating Shoumaker in August at the behest of university officials, who alleged he had committed fraud during his time at the UT law school, the state's most prestigious. Shoumaker – who was paid an annual salary of $80,000 before his firing – was placed on administrative leave in July 2017, after a string of internal complaints about his performance and chronic absenteeism. 

As early as the spring of 2016, a supervisor said Shoumaker had "started to not be around" and "didn't seem to be doing his job anymore," according to the affidavit. 

University auditors, managers and executives all accused Shoumaker of submitting time sheets that said he was clocking in at the law school even as his personal credit cards were being swiped in such far-flung destinations as Miami, Florida and California, the document says. 

During multiple pay periods, Shoumaker logged regular 8-hour days with the university while he was actually cavorting out of state, according to the affidavit. 

Charges between July 2016 and April 2017 included: $2,584.76 for an American Airlines flight to the U.S. Virgin Islands, $609.02 at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, $39.76 at Jose Cuervo Tequila in Miami, Florida; and $88.50 at a lobster grill in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

After listing a fusillade of March 2017 credit card charges made in Mexico, the affidavit notes: "Based on these facts the Affiant believes Shoumaker was not at work in Austin, Texas and had no state business in Cozumel, Mexico, on the dates he claimed to have worked." 

Hired in July 2007, Shoumaker worked in UT's College of Communication before being promoted in May 2014 to be facilities director of the law school. 

One of his colleagues there, according to the affidavit, said "there were many times she was unable to find him" and that she often 'covered [duties] for Jason,' as co-workers sometime[s] do." 

"Everything ok?" the colleague wrote to Shoumaker on April 3, 2017, according to the affidavit. 

"Yes, on my way to work," Shoumaker texted in response. In fact, Shoumaker was likely in Las Vegas that day, the document says – citing a flurry of charges to his card that included $44.20 at a Hooters Restaurant and $81.00 for a professional massage.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

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