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Ex-Haskell Foundation director draws year and day

TOPEKA, Kan. ? Gerald Burd, former director of the Haskell Foundation, was sentenced in federal court to one year in prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from the foundation.

Burd had entered a guilty plea May 17 to one count of embezzling and admitted that from Jan. 2, 1998, through Dec. 10, 1999, he had embezzled approximately $103,979.47 in property from the foundation.

At the earlier hearing, Burd had been charged with wiring himself $22,084 from foundation accounts; cashing $4,000 in checks intended for activities related to scholarships at the university; falsified expense vouchers and then wrote checks totaling $10,517 to himself; paid himself a $7,000 bonus; earned a master's degree from Rock Hurst College in Kansas City, Mo., using foundation money to finance tuition; wrote double paychecks to himself; using the foundation's credit card and giving himself advances in pay and paying personal bills using foundation funds.

Burd was no stranger to financial and legal trouble. He lost his CPA license 1997 in New Mexico and surrendered his CPA license in Kansas in 1997 and his Missouri CPA license in 1998. He filed for bankruptcy in 1997 and had been accused of stealing $40,000 from his former business partner, and allegedly misappropriating $300,000 from a relative's estate. It has been reported that Burd received nearly $120,000 by telling friends and members of his church he needed money to cure a rare kidney disorder.

Trouble started for the foundation, a separate entity and not part of the university, when its checks started bouncing and Burd failed to complete a 1998 audit requested by the Haskell Board of Regents. This all led to a yearlong investigation by federal authorities.

The Haskell Foundation served as an organization to receive grants and private donations the university cannot accept. It has been in charge of distributing the funds to students and various departments on the Haskell campus.

'I am sorry for my actions,' Burd told the court at sentencing. 'I knew it was wrong. My life got out of control. I accept responsibility for what I have done.'

Burd will serve his sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary Camp, a federal minimum-security prison in Leavenworth. He is to report to federal authorities in three weeks to begin serving his prison term.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Rogers confirmed that Burd entered into a plea bargain with the U.S. District Attorney, but said he didn't know the details. 'Any plea bargain is between the government and the defendant. I think the government had several other counts that they did not use,' Rogers admitted. 'It was the sentence that was ordained by the sentencing commission.'

When some complained of a too-light sentence, Rogers said it also was the result of the federal guidelines the court had to follow. 'The idea behind a lighter sentence is that they are supposed to pay back the money. If they are in jail they can't pay it back.'

Rogers also confirmed that Burd attributed some of his actions to bouts with depression, an excuse dismissed by Rogers. 'Yes, he's had depression. But every defendant has depression. When they get caught, they get depressed.'

After Burd's guilty plea in May, rumors circulated at Haskell that Burd was working with the government for a lighter sentence by turning in others involved in wrongdoing at the foundation as well as Haskell employees who received property for their departments through the foundation, using 'back door' methods.

Asked again whether the light sentence was the result of a deal with the government to bring others into the investigation, Rogers checked with law clerks, then said he was unable to find a 5 K 1.1, usually filed in such cases.

Richard Hathaway, senior litigation counsel for the U.S. attorney, confirmed there were no deals with Burd to indict others in return for a lighter sentence.

Burd's sentencing on the federal charges didn't end his trouble with the law. He appeared in Johnson County District Court Aug. 27 and was sentenced to two terms of 12 months, to run concurrently with his federal sentence.

The Johnson County sentence came about when Burd broke a 1998 diversionary agreement to pay back $39,220 he had stolen from his former business partner.