Authorities open fraud probe at Florida A&M University

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 14, 2011 6:03 PM

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Reuters) - Already probing the apparent hazing-related death of a Florida A&M University drum major, Florida's top law enforcement agency said on Wednesday it had launched a separate investigation into potential fraud and misconduct at the school.

The possible criminal violations by employees or people associated with the university were discovered during the continuing investigation into the November 19 death of marching band member Robert Champion, according to a letter sent to FAMU officials on Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The historically black college and its vaunted Marching "100" band have come under intense scrutiny over alleged hazing rites. Champion, 26, died after suspected hazing on the band's bus following the annual Florida Classic football game and marching band show in Orlando.

Earlier this week, three band members were arrested in a separate alleged hazing incident police say left a fellow band mate with a broken leg three weeks before Champion's death.

An FDLE spokeswoman would not provide details of the new investigation but said it was not related to the probe into how Champion died.

"This is a separate investigation," FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

Through Plessinger, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said on Wednesday that the investigation dealt with financial matters at the university.

University officials said they are cooperating with authorities.

"We cannot comment on the investigation, as we have no further details at this time. But we are cooperating fully with this and all investigations," said a statement by Solomon L. Badger III, chairman of the FAMU Board of Trustees.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)