Hartley, Maxwell, & Castellano Attorneys at Law
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University professor caught hiding retirement egg is sentenced

It is our goal that every divorce can be handled in a professional, honest and forthright manner by staff and clients. However, the client or their spouse may have difficulty in dividing such assets as real property, bank accounts, investments and possessions. This can lead to the temptation to deceive, hide or otherwise mislead the other side.

We wrote about a University of Minnesota computer and electrical engineering professor back in September, discussing how he was caught attempting to hide the actual amount in one retirement account and omit the very existence of a second account. His wife thought the numbers were low and reported the man to police, which led to forgery charges as well as accusations of theft and swindle. A jury convicted him of three felony charges in September.

Sentencing handed down

A Hennepin County District Judge has now sentenced the man to four months in the county workhouse and four years probation. The defendant was also fined $30,000. The three felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors. The prosecution had sought a 3-1/2-year jail sentence, arguing that these crimes were felonies systematically committed over a lengthy period and involved an attempt to swindle more $100,000. Some may say that the man got off easy, but there are other factors.

A reputation in tatters

The real punishment may be to the reputation of the professor, whose story made national news. The former employee of NASA, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Rockwell International as well as various federal agencies came to the university in March 2003. He subsequently became the director of the Technological Leadership Institute.

He has now stepped down as his job as director. He is still employed by the university, but is focusing on research and publishing papers instead of teaching. The school will revisit his employment situation depending on if the professor seeks an appeal and what that decision would be.

The professor said in court that his career is now in jeopardy, and the 57-years-old’s retirement egg he was so worried about is considerably smaller than it would have been if he had negotiated in good faith. He is lucky to avoid jail, but a criminal record will make it difficult to find work in the future.

When filing for divorce, it is always best to be honest about information. The ramifications and penalties will always far outweigh the perceived gain.

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