A former director of information technologies at Southern University pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to mail fraud that cost the school $157,366.
A second defendant, a tenured mechanical engineering professor, remains a fugitive, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Walt Green.
Scott D. Woodall, 40, of Denham Springs, entered the guilty plea, which U.S. District Judge James J. Brady said carries a possible prison term of 20 years, an order of restitution, and fines that could total $250,000.
The fugitive professor is Parviz Sharifrazi, 59, of Baton Rouge. Authorities have not been able to locate him since he and Woodall were indicted in February.
Woodall admitted to Brady that he and Sharifrazi set up shell companies — Exterra Technologies and Nova Systems — to defraud Southern in a scheme that began in early 2008 and continued through December 2009.
“These companies had no legitimate purpose and did not operate as normal businesses,” states the indictment written by Green and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan A. Stevens.
Woodall said the indictment correctly accused him of ordering high-cost computer equipment through the shell companies, then substituting lower-cost equipment for Southern.
University checks for the full price of the requested equipment were sent to out-of-state mail drops for Exterra and Nova, Woodall conceded. He and Sharifrazi then shared the bogus profits.
Woodall signed a plea agreement reached by his attorney, Anthony M. Bertucci, and Green.
In return for his guilty plea to one count of mail fraud, 11 other felony charges will be dropped from Woodall’s indictment.
In addition to his guilty plea, Woodall was required to pledge his cooperation with federal investigators and prosecutors.
Brady did not immediately schedule a sentencing hearing.
Until his sentencing, Woodall will remain free on bail.