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University sues former employee for fraud

Joseph McMahon | Monday, September 21, 2009

The University filed suit in St. Joseph County Circuit Court against of one its former employees on Aug. 27, alleging that the defendant was wrongfully overcompensated.

According to the court documents, the defendant, Sara Gaspar, who had worked for Catering… by Design since Jan. 15, was paid the inappropriate gratuity of $29,387 – instead of the $29.87 to which she was entitled.

“[The] defendant did not notify the University about the inappropriate gratuity, but instead used the money to purchase a motor vehicle and make other payments,” the suit claimed. “The University discovered the mistake in May 2009 and requested repayment but [the] defendant has refused to make any repayment of the inappropriate gratuity.”

In a letter filed with the Court on Sep. 10, Gaspar said while she did use the money to buy a car and pay off some debts, she did attempt to contact the University three times after first noticing the inappropriate payment on April 17 – once that day, once on April 20 and once on April 28.

“I never heard a word back,” Gaspar said in a statement to the court.

However, University spokesman Dennis Brown said Notre Dame did attempt to contact Gaspar to arrange for a mutually beneficial settlement outside of court.

“We made every effort to resolve this matter before litigation, but were unable to do so,” Brown said.

Moreover, Brown claimed the stories that sprung up in the national media last week publicizing the lawsuit omitted some key details. However, he would not elaborate any further.

“There’s more to this than what has been reported, but we’re not going to debate these issues through the media,” he said. “We’re confident of our position in this matter and we’re going to let the legal system take its course.”

The University’s suit alleges one claim of unjust enrichment, one claim of fraud and one claim of conversion.

“[The] defendant knew the payment was in error and should have notified the University, but instead accepted and used the inappropriate gratuity,” the suit said. “The defendant’s knowing and intentional acceptance and use if the inappropriate gratuity is an act of fraud.”

Ultimately, Notre Dame is asking for Gaspar to repay the $29,387 as well as “awarding the University its costs and expenses incurred in this action, including attorney fees, and all other just and proper relief.”

Gaspar, however, alleged the University is “not telling the whole truth.”

“I am very frightened and I know that no matter what I do I will never win against a power such as this school,” she said in her statement.

Gaspar said she believed no one wanted to respond to her three calls because of an incident she claims occurred while she was working at an alumni function.

“A Gentleman (use loosely) who was an Alumni grabbed my private area while I was serving food,” she said. “I told [redacted] about this incident and he laughed. So I thought maybe that was why no one wanted to talk to me.”

Gaspar said in June she “received a phone call threatening me that I had to repay this amount [but] by then I had bought a vehicle.”

Gaspar said she is willing to take a lie detector test to combat the claims that she never attempted to contact the University, and she has been suffering emotional problems since receiving the summons.

“I had told my whole family and I thought finally something wonderful had happened in my life,” she said. “Now I am suffering severe anguish and depression over this. I feel frightened enough that I have thought about doing very severe things.”

Gaspar said her employment at Catering… by Design has since been terminated and now she has no money to pay for her own attorney, let alone the University’s.

“I have no home, no money, all the money is gone to pay for bills and I still have medical bills,” she said.