Thursday, May 18, 2006

UMDNJ Gets Raided by the FBI Over Shredded Documents

Its been more than three weeks since we posted about the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). UMDNJ now is operating under a federal deferred prosecution agreement with the supervision of a federal monitor (see most recent posts here, here and here.) We had previously discussed allegations that UMDNJ had offered no-bid contracts, at times requiring no work, to the politically connected; had paid for lobbyists and made political contributions, even though UMDNJ is a state institution; and seemed to be run by political bosses rather than health care professionals. (See post here, with links to previous posts.)

Now UMDNJ is back in the news (via the Newark Star-Ledger) in a particularly vivid way. The Star-Ledger reported that:

FBI agents raided a South Jersey campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey yesterday afternoon after they were tipped that documents tied to an ongoing criminal probe of a high-ranking state senator were being systematically shredded.
The agents ordered officials at UMDNJ's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford to turn over those documents by today. They also subpoenaed individual school officials to appear today before a federal grand jury in Newark investigating whether any key documents were destroyed.
The records sought related to the university's dealings with state Sen. Wayne Bryant (D-Camden)....
Bryant, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, became one focus of the investigation after the monitor questioned whether the powerful senator steered millions of dollars in state funds to the osteopathic school after he was hired there as a program support coordinator.
Sources said yesterday's dramatic events began about 2 p.m. after someone called a hotline in the office of the monitor, former federal Judge Herbert J. Stern, to report that records 'that could have significance' were being shredded in the office of Warren Wallace, the senior associate dean for academic and student affairs at the osteopathic school.
A political ally of Bryant, Wallace himself has become a subject of the ongoing investigation at the Stratford campus, but has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The explanation from officials on the Stratford campus, located just outside Camden, was that the documents being shredded consisted of antiquated student records and faxes of records for which there were hard copies, the sources said.
However, the university had ordered months ago that no records be destroyed as the federal investigation widened.
[UMDNJ Interim President] Vladeck said he immediately ordered the shredder unplugged and taken out of use. The FBI later confiscated the machine, the sources said.
You just can't make this stuff up.

It would be almost funny, if it were not going on at an academic health care institution, in fact, the largest health care university in the US. Instead, it's tragic that the former leaders of this once proud institution let or caused it to fall so far.

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