You know that feeling right before Christmas when you have no idea what to get your family and friends, so you just go to a grocery store and peruse the gift card section? That was about every day in the life of Scott Eaton between 2007 and 2013.
WKYT in Lexington, Ky., reported the former Northern Kentucky University athletic director stole $311,215 from the school, the largest chunk of which was $262,000 in Kroger gift cards.
According to the report, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said:
At a time when higher education institutions are being asked to accomplish more with smaller tuition increases and declining state funding, the reckless behavior exhibited by Scott Eaton is completely unacceptable.
Eaton's theft was only discovered back in 2013 after a former employee with whom he had had an intimate relationship came forward to the school, according to Cliff Peale of Cincinnati.com. That led to a wider investigation, after which his purchase of the gift cards was discovered:
Over that weekend, Mearns gathered enough information to suspend Eaton from his $139,957.04-a-year job for violating NKU’s ethics policy. The new president commissioned an investigation, and on Saturday, March 16, Mearns fired Eaton in a letter.
The investigation into Eaton’s activities and an audit of the department’s finances continues, but Eaton has admitted intimate relationships with at least four NKU employees, including two who reported to him, and one student who was in her mid-40s at the time.
Eaton was charged with felony theft by unlawful taking, a charge to which he pleaded guilty on Thursday, per The Northerner:
BREAKING: Former Athletic Director Scott Eaton has plead guilty to the charge of felony theft by unlawful taking.— The Northerner (@northernermedia) April 17, 2014
As part of the plea, he accepted a 10-year prison sentence, per Steve Moss of WKYT:
Former NKU AD Scott Eaton will serve 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $300,000 from the school. Damn— Steve Moss (@smosswkyt) April 17, 2014
Conway felt that the punishment fit the crime, per Mike Berk of WKRC in Cincinnati:
Peale reported that Eaton will be eligible for parole after two years, but no matter when he gets out, he'll have to pay back the full amount of money that he stole.
While you have to give Eaton points for creativity, you can't understate what he did to the school as a whole. Conway told reporters on Thursday that the amount of money Eaton took could've paid 40 students' full tuition.
Now, Northern Kentucky's left to pick up the pieces. Although they'll ultimately get the $311,215 back, their reputation has been harmed by this whole process. Many will wonder how Eaton could've gotten away with his theft for six full years, and had the former employee not come forward, it could've been even longer.
In Peale's 2013 article, an NKU employee is quoted as saying, "There must have been two Scott Eatons."
At the very least, Eaton has been found out, and NKU can put into place regulations and provisions so that this doesn't happen again.