Forgiving Spirit or Neglect – B-CU Hires Accountant Who Served Time for Check Fraud

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bethune-cookman-university-campus-23036Bethune-Cookman University hired an accountant who served four years in jail for check fraud and for stealing more than $8,000 from a former employer’s cash register.

Nicholas Harrell was hired at the school in June, according to his LinkedIn profile, and a Google search shows his name in affiliation with the college, including a Bethune-Cookman email address.  School spokeswoman Keisha Boyd said in an email that he is not currently employed at B-CU.  She declined to comment further because it involved a “personnel matter.”

“We are a private institution and protect the personnel matters of our staff and faculty.  That is all the information that I can share with you,” she said.

Harrell could not be reached for comment.

Deb Threet, a member of the school’s alumni association, said the hire could spark another outcry from alumni who signed a petition she was pushing earlier this year urging the school to authorize an independent audit after the sudden termination of the school’s V.P of Fiscal Affairs, who left in the midst of a $72 million residence hall project.

However, of the accountant being hired, Threet said she’s a strong believer in second chances.

“I do have a forgiving spirit,” she said. “Maybe they are trying to give him a life after being convicted.  That’s the teacher in me, everyone makes mistakes.”

Harrell’s first arrest came in 2001 when he worked at an Albertson’s grocery store in Daytona Beach.  The manager contacted police after realizing that their most recent financial report revealed that a substantial amount of money, $8,344, was unaccounted for, according to police records. The police were given three surveillance videos that showed Harrell removing cash from the register.  He “beat around the bush” during an interview with police and told them that the evidence against him was “circumstantial,” according to records.

In 2004, police records show that Harrell attempted to cash a $450 check using someone else’s driver’s license at the Riverside Bank inside the Port Orange Wal-Mart. The teller recognized Harrell, realized that the check was probably not valid, and a manager advised the teller not to give him any money.  When the Port Orange police arrived at the scene, officers attempted to escort Harrell out a side door. Harrell pushed the officer against a table and fled. He was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting without violence and several open warrants for grand theft and issuing worthless checks, according to police records.

He served four years in jail for all the charges and was released in 2008.

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