A federal grand jury in St. Louis handed down an indictment for federal fraud charges today, Nov. 16, against Deborah Trott Pierce, the former director of the Confucius Institute at Webster University. The indictment alleges Pierce took funds from the institute and redirected the money for her personal use.
In August, an internal audit at the university revealed funds intended for the institute and sent from the Chinese Ministry of Education had been redirected without the knowledge or authority of the university to an unauthorized bank account. After immediately conducting its own investigation, the university turned over evidence of these fraudulent transactions to the FBI and Postal Inspection Service. The university has cooperated fully with federal investigators.
The results of the university’s audit and investigation reveal the unauthorized diversion of these funds was the work of one employee working outside of any institutional processes. Pierce has resigned her position as the director of the institute and her husband resigned his position as director of governmental and business affairs for the institute. The university appointed an interim director.
As this incident involves an on-going legal case, officials at the university decline to comment further about what has occurred until after this case is decided. The university commends the work of the FBI, the Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Attorney’s Office in this matter.
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