University of Notre Dame Law School.

 

A former administrator of the clinical program at Notre Dame University Law School has been charged with embezzling nearly $200,000 from the school.

Jennifer Ihns faces 11 counts of theft, forgery and corrupt business influence, stemming from a more than seven-year scheme in which she allegedly wrote checks to herself from the clinic’s operating expenses account and its IOLTA account—an account that holds client funds in trust and bears interest that can be used toward legal aid—according to charging documents filed May 26 by local Indiana prosecutors.

Investigators uncovered thefts totaling more than $199,000 but said even more money could be missing.

“The breadth of her illicit activities may never be fully known—but there are over 255 separate checks on separate days representing separate thefts of university/clinic/clients funds over a seven-and-one-half-year period,” according to a supplemental affidavit submitted by an investigator from the prosecutor’s office.

Ihns was arraigned Tuesday.

A spokesman for the university declined to comment Friday.

Ihns was hired as a clinic office coordinator and paralegal in 2009 and later rose to become the administrator of Notre Dame’s Clinical Law Center, which operates four separate clinics serving area individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. She had signing authority over the clinic’s bank accounts and her thefts began almost immediately after she was hired, prosecutors allege.

She employed a series of tactics to cover her tracks, according to the charging documents. In some cases, Ihns altered the scanned images of the checks sent back from the bank to obscure the fact that she had written those checks to herself. She also increased the amount of some valid checks in order to boost the amount of money reimbursed to the clinic by the university in a bid to replenish the accounts she was personally looting, investigators claim.

Investigators said they found no evidence of Ihns stealing directly from clinic clients, although her recordkeeping created some ambiguity. The university paid some clients to ensure they sustained no financial harm from Ihns’ conduct, prosecutors said.

The university conducted an initial inquiry into the handling of the clinic’s funds in June 2016 and quickly identified problems, according to the affidavit. Ihns initially denied any knowledge of financial improprieties when interviewed by a university investigator the following month, but later allegedly told them, “I did it,” the affidavit said. Ihns also told investigators that she was in financial need, and that the stolen money had been spent. She estimated that she had stolen no more than $30,000, and that the thefts had been going on for two years, the affidavit says. She was immediately fired.

A complete audit of the clinic’s finances from 2009 to 2016 later revealed the full extent of Ihns’ embezzlement, prosecutors allege.