Former UNI official charged with theft for alleged ticket fraud

284 improper transactions alleged over two-year period

From a Media Release
Published: December 28 2011 | 2:40 pm - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 9:31 am in
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UPDATE: The former assistant director of the University of Northern Iowa’s event ticketing operation has been charged with first-degree theft after a state audit showed he siphoned nearly $19,000 from the university and patrons.

John D. Gogola, 44, is accused of diverting $18,891 from UNItix, a centralized system for selling tickets to sporting events and other performances.

The 99-page audit report, released Wednesday, says Gogola made 284 improper transactions from Aug. 1, 2008, to Aug. 31, 2010, transferring $16,412 from UNItix to his personal debit and credit cards in a complex scheme that was difficult to untangle.

“The individual who committed this fraud went through a particularly complicated scheme,” said State Auditor David Vaudt. “He made the actual fraud more complicated than it had to be, performing a number of transactions to cover his trail.”

Most of the missing money came from UNItix, but 12 patrons lost a total $1,268. UNI has contacted all of the patrons and will cut them checks for the losses, said Steve Carignan, assistant vice president for administration and financial services/executive director, Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

In many cases, Gogola routed patrons’ credit card payments to his personal accounts, issuing the patrons tickets, but voiding the tickets after the event had occurred, the audit states. Gogola also listed bogus names, like “Eric Waterloo”, on transactions and, in one case, created an account under a student’s name, the audit found.

Gogola charged his personal debit and credit cards $4,973 to make the transactions balance, the audit found.

UNI was alerted to the alleged fraud in October 2010 when a patron called to say that she hadn’t received the four men’s season basketball tickets for which she had paid $996 earlier in the year.

Although Gogola had resigned from UNI in August 2010, UNI staff were able to determine that the $996 had been routed to Gogola’s personal credit card, the audit found. A gift certificate had been issued for $1,004 that Gogola indicated should be applied to the patron’s tickets, but Gogola had already redeemed the certificate to pay for two other patrons’ orders, the audit found.

Gogola dropped off a check for $996 in November 2010 with a note that said: “Since I never have time to come in, and it was my mistake, here is payment for [PATRON NAME]’s tickets.”

UNI officials contacted the state auditor’s office to request a special investigation.

Gogola was booked into the Black Hawk County Jail Wednesday and is being held on $50,000 bond. First-degree theft is a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If Gogola is convicted of a crime, UNI could pursue restitution to repay the missing funds.

Gogola was hired by UNI in 2006 as a student employee. He became UNItix assistant director in August 2009, after graduating from the university, Carignan said.

State auditors recommended UNI improve checks and balances in the UNItix office, which processes hundreds of thousands of transactions a year.

UNI has already added video cameras to all computers that process patron payments so officials can review these transactions if necessary, Carignan said. Two people must now confirm the list of tickets to be voided after events and the voiding must be done within 24 hours of the event, he said.

The full audit report is available at: http://auditor.iowa.gov/specials/1161-8030-BE00.pdf

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