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Former UT football director of operations pleads guilty to misconduct

Staff Reports • Dec 18, 2017 at 4:43 PM

Chris Spognardi, the former director of football operations at the University of Tennessee, pleaded guilty Thursday to official misconduct.

State comptroller investigators determined Spognardi provided fabricated or altered documentation to account for at least $14,085 in athletic funds from September 2015 through January 2016. Spognardi could provide no evidence the money was used for legitimate University of Tennessee athletics purposes.

Spognardi was responsible for receiving and handling cash advances from the athletic department to pay various travel-related expenses of the University of Tennessee football team. The expenses included per-diem payments, mean costs and various cash tips.

Investigators determined Spognardi submitted fraudulent and fabricated documents as support for the cash advances he received. These false documents included invoices for food and other services that were never provided to the football team.

Spognardi also submitted at least 18 fraudulent tip sheets that indicated he paid cash tips to various vendors and individuals. Comptroller investigators found in many instances the tips were never received.

The comptroller’s office began its investigation after the University of Tennessee office of the treasurer and office of audit and compliance detected Spognardi’s scheme. He was fired from the University of Tennessee Athletics Department on Dec. 12, 2016.

“This investigation involved thousands of dollars of cash advances,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “Using cash for travel expenses increases the possibility of errors and irregularities. It also places employees at risk of theft or robbery. I’m pleased to note the University of Tennessee has taken steps to address this problem.”

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