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Ex-manager of MSU bookstore admits stealing almost $1.2 million

March 26, 2013|by Gene Hartley and Mike Landis, KY3 News | news@schurz.com
  • Mark Brixey, manager of the Missouri State University bookstore, talks about sales of Bears merchandise in March 2011.
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A former manager of the Missouri State University Bookstore admits he embezzled more than $1.1 million from the university over a period of more than eight years.   Mark Brixey pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to wire fraud, money laundering and filing a false income tax return.

University officials uncovered the theft last summer after they found $81,000 in cash in Brixey’s desk while he was on vacation.  He quickly resigned before University officials fired him.  At that time, auditors suspected at least $400,000 and possibly more than $500,000 had been taken over the past few years.

Investigators say Brixey stole by converting checks from textbook companies to cash.  The checks were funds used to buy back used textbooks from students at the ends of semesters.  He took the checks to the university's Bursar's Office.  That office handles university funds and cashes personal checks.

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors said the money that Brixey took was not the funds for paying students for used books, but rather commissions paid by the textbook companies to the bookstore for selling and buying back their products.  Prosecutors and MSU President Clif Smart said Brixey took advantage of a system set up nearly 20 years ago for the bookstore manager to handle those commission payments.

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Smart said the day he learned of the embezzlements last summer was the saddest day for him since he became the leader of the university in the summer of 2011.  He called Tuesday a good day because the case is on the road to justice and punishment.

Smart said controls on cash transactions at the bookstore were put in place after the embezzlement was discovered.  He also said university administrators scoured the campus to make sure similar controls are in place wherever cash is handled.  He said the fact that Brixey had $81,000 in cash in his desk shows how lax the system was and how confident Brixey was that he wouldn't be caught.

Brixey was bookstore manager from 2000 until he quit last August.  He started working at the bookstore as a clerk in 1991.  Prosecutors said the thefts began in 2003 with the theft of almost $29,000 and increased each year.  Here are the amounts that investigators say was taken each year: 2012 -- $20,581; 2011 -- $192,202; 2010 -- $194,521; 2009 -- $166,354; 2008 -- $137,905; 2007 -- $131,342; 2006 --$103,835; 2005 -- $105,621; 2004 --$81,930; and 2003 -- $28,946.

Brixey waived his right to be indicted by a federal grand jury and agreed to charged by information from the U.S. attorney's office.   At his court appearance on Tuesday morning, he then entered his guilty plea, which is subject to acceptance by a U.S. District Court judge.  After his court appearance, he was released.  The conditions of his release are not public.

The wire fraud charge is for the way in which Brixey handled checks electronically.  The money laundering charge is for converting money deposited in Brixey’s credit union account to a certificate of deposit.  The income tax charge is for not reporting $194,521 in stolen cash on his 2010 return.

Brixey graduated from Kickapoo High School in 1983 and from Southwest Missouri State University in 1989.  As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to file other charges against Brixey or his wife, who is an assistant admissions director at MSU.  She also graduated from SMSU (now MSU).

Brixey could face prison sentences totaling up to 43 years, fines up to twice what he stole, and an order to make restitution to MSU.  His sentencing date is not set.

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Edited news release from U.S. attorney's office:

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The former manager of the Missouri State University bookstore pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to embezzling more than $1.1 million by pocketing the money from the school’s textbook buyback program.

“MSU’s former bookstore manager engaged in a 10-year-long scheme of theft and deceit,” said U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said.  “He repeatedly abused his position to exploit weaknesses in the university’s accounting system and steal more than $1.1 million. MSU, to its credit, has corrected those weaknesses and fully cooperated with our investigation.”

Mark Brixey, 48, of Ozark, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush to a federal information that charges him with wire fraud, money laundering and filing a false tax return.

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