Tennessee’s former director of football operations is repaying the school over $14,000 after he pleaded guilty to misconduct regarding forged receipts for expense reports.
Chris Spognardi entered his plea Thursday. The school placed him on leave before the 2016 football season and he was fired in early 2017.
According to an investigation released Monday by the state’s comptroller, Spognardi “provided fabricated or altered documentation to account for at least $14,085 in travel-related cash advances entrusted to him by the UT Athletics Department.”
The investigation found six invoices were “completely fabricated” and were nearly $6,000 “in excess of the costs verified by the related vendors.”
According to the report “at least two invoices” were altered to increase amounts the amounts they reflected so Spognardi could pocket the excess. In one of the invoices — from a barbecue restaurant in Columbia, Missouri, when Tennessee visited Mizzou in November 2015 — the total was increased from approximately $2,071 to $2,721.
The investigation also said Spognardi submitted “at least” 18 fake tip sheets in excess of $7,000.
The investigation also revealed that the individuals listed as receiving the cash tips on these tip sheets were often individuals unknown to the related vendors. For example, Mr. Spognardi indicated that he paid a $500 tip to a member of the Kentucky State Highway Patrol (KSHP) for providing travel escort in October 2015. However, a representative of that organization told Comptroller investigators that they did not provide travel escort service for that game, and that there was no one in the entire KSHP with the name that Mr. Spognardi listed on the tip sheet. Comptroller investigators contacted the law enforcement agency in Kentucky that did provide travel escort for that game and were advised that they would not and did not accept a gratuity for
Officials said Spognardi admitted in an audit to forging the receipts because he couldn’t account for the money. The former director of football ops took his position in 2014 after coming to Tennessee with now-former Vols coach Butch Jones. Spognardi had worked with Jones at Cincinnati and Central Michigan.
Jones was fired with two weeks remaining in the 2017 regular season.
As part of his guilty plea, Spognardi is serving a probationary sentence of a year.
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