Criminal fraud probe of SSU institute wrapping up

Sonoma State University police are wrapping up a criminal investigation into a campus department suspected of misspending federal money.

The investigation of the California Institute of Human Services, which provides training and educational programs for social service agencies, should be done within the next one or two weeks, SSU Police Chief Nate Johnson said Friday.

Sonoma State will need to spend $2.1 million to cover inappropriate expenditures by the institute, according to audit results made public Friday by university administrators.

The audit by SSU and outside accounting firm KPMG ran parallel to the criminal inquiry. There also is an ongoing investigation by the California State University system's auditor.

The institute's two top officers, founder Tony Apolloni of Santa Rosa and George Triest of Sebastopol, have been on paid administrative leave since February. They did not return calls seeking comment.

The criminal investigation focuses on allegations of fraud and theft, but Johnson wouldn't identify the targets of the investigation.

"This is a complex case and involved a lot of people," Johnson said. "This case is a matter of documentation, of who signed what, and were these funds authorized?"

The overriding question, he said, is "whether the funds were used as they were intended, as they were approved by the federal government, and used for public projects rather than private projects."

Johnson said the campus police agency has three people assigned to the investigation and is working closely with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office.

Johnson said the police investigation was requested by university and state officials in mid-March, a month after the audits were started, and was based on information uncovered during the preliminary audits.

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