Former University of Minnesota athletics official sentenced for fraud
Written by Josh Verges / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL -- A former assistant athletics director was sentenced Monday, May 6, to 21 months in prison for stealing $361,336 from the University of Minnesota over five years.
Brent Holck, 37, was given a lighter-than-expected sentence because he’s taken responsibility for his crime and is making efforts to pay back what he stole.
From April 2012 through January 2017, Holck would cancel ticket sales to games after they’d taken place and deposit the refunded money into his own accounts.
He also issued game tickets and parking passes to acquaintances, who then sold them and kicked back most of the proceeds to Holck.
John Kokkinen, assistant U.S. attorney, said Holck defrauded his employer over and over for five years with a sophisticated scheme that auditors could not detect.
“This was not an example of a fleeting lapse of judgment,” Kokkinen said. “This was repeated conduct over the course of five years.”
The fraud was uncovered only after a customer showed up late to an event, prompting a university review of its ticket orders.
Defense attorney Aaron Morrison said Holck was shocked when the university and prosecutors tallied up how much he had stolen.
“I think it showed … the real stranglehold that his gambling had on him,” he said.
Holck since has sought treatment for gambling addiction and is working with a financial planner to determine how to make restitution. He came to court Monday with an initial $100,000 restitution check withdrawn from his retirement account.
“He wants to make the U whole,” Morrison said.
Even the prosecutor acknowledged Holck’s behavior has been “admirable or exemplary” since he was caught. For that, U.S. District Judge John Tunheim departed from federal sentencing guidelines, which called for a prison term of 33 to 41 months.
“I really appreciate your cooperation with everyone since this was discovered,” Tunheim said.
Based on letters submitted to the court, the judge said, “There are many things about you that have changed for the positive.”
The university hired Holck in 2008 and paid him a salary of $94,003.
He was charged in November with one count of wire fraud and pleaded guilty a month later.
Once his prison term is up, he’ll spend two years on supervised release, which will include no gambling and 100 hours of community service. Tunheim did not impose a fine, saying he wanted Holck’s future income to go toward restitution.
Holck apologized for bringing a “black cloud” on Gophers sports and for creating more work and stress for administrators.
“They trusted me to do a job and I did not do that,” he said.