Wherever there is money there likely will be theft. Noncommercial public media outlets are not immune to internal scams. In some cases, it is easier to rip off a large university because few people know the terminology and operations of a station.
Such is the case with WDCB, licensed to the College of DuPage in suburban Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reported last week [link] that former WDCB engineer John Valenta has been accused of stealing more than $100,000 while working at the WDCB’s licensee, the College of DuPage. Valenta will face trial in DuPage County court beginning Feburary 28, 2017.
According the Tribune report, Valenta was indicted in April 2015 following a lengthy internal investigation. Authorities allege that between 2006 and 2013, Valenta submitted invoices for WDCB services payable to a company called Broadcast Technologies. Valenta owned the company. The College says it was unaware of his ownership. The investigation revealed that many invoices were for services that were never completed and that the college paid for parts that were not delivered, according to prosecutors.
According to court files, Valenta told police that he submitted false invoices because he felt he should have been employed full time at the station.
The investigation further found that Valenta had been convicted in 2011 of a similar scam when he was a contract engineer at WRSE-FM at Elmhurst College.
We were able to get a redacted copy of the College Board of Trustees investigative report that led to the charges. The following includes verbatim verbiage from the report with a few edits for clarity space:
INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATIVE REPORT IN REGARD TO POTENTIAL CRIMINAL CONDUCT BY JOHN VALENTA
Prepared for the College of DuPage Board of Trustees
In December 2013, the College of DuPage uncovered and acted on a scheme to defraud the college by John Valenta, employed by the college as an engineer at its radio station WDCB (FM90.9). The scheme involved the use of false invoices issued by Valenta’s company, Broadcast Technologies. Inc.
At the outset, it is important to note that an employee defrauding his or her employer will naturally go to keep the fraud hidden from view and dissuade investigation.
John Valenta was employed by COD as a station engineer at WDCB from 1979 to 2014. Valenta was under the supervision of former GM Scott Wager.
Authorities allege that while working at the station, Valenta submitted phony invoices from his side business from June 2006 to December 2013 for materials the school never received and work he never performed. The scheme also included at least $90,000 for radio transmitter parts that were never installed, according to school records.
In the years prior to Valenta’s retirement in 2014, the station experienced frequent power outages that caused it to go off the air. When the outages allegedly occurred, Valenta would purchase parts and/or equipment purportedly damaged from the outages. The purchases were made outside of the College’s usual purchase order system, a procedure approved of by Wager.
Wager [told investigators] that Broadcast Technologies was a sideline business for someone he had known for years and he felt it provided a better price than other suppliers.
Wager also said it was not realistic to get a purchase order approved in the middle of the night when a new part was needed. As a result, the College’s purchasing department worked with Wager to establish a blanket purchase order for Broadcast Technologies.
Each payment to Broadcast Technologies [was] approved by Valenta and Wager, the station manager. [However] subsequent investigation found that most of the power outages never occurred.
Likely facing termination for lack of performance, Wager retired from the College effective July 31, 2013. Valenta retired in February 2014, shortly before the college's auditor issued the internal report accusing him of violating school policies by personally approving fake invoices.
A search for a new station manager culminated in the hiring of Daniel Bindert on October 28, 2013. [Bindert apparently had no knowledge of Valenta’s activities prior to becoming GM.]
Bindert’s supervisor told him about Valenta’s use of overtime. The alleged power interruptions were still occurring.
in December 2013, Bindert was meeting with an engineer from another radio station. That engineer warned Binderdt to take a close look at Valenta because he had had problems at Elmhurst College and elsewhere.
Bindert performed a Google search and found a newspaper report on Valenta?s indictment as a result of theft at Elmhurst College. He also pulled billings and inquired of station staff concerning Broadcast Technologies.
Bindert then performed a Google search of Broadcast Technologies in Wheaton, illinois and it showed Valenta’s address.
Shortly thereafter, senior college management, met with Bindert to address and investigate Valenta’s apparent fraud. the internal investigation ensued leading to the charges against Valenta.