Feds: WSU employee illegally spent $76K in gift cards

Jennifer Chambers

A former executive in Wayne State University’s School of Social Work has been charged by federal authorities in Detroit with wire fraud.

Curtis A. Brahm was charged July 19 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for allegedly defrauding the university of more than $76,000 in prepaid Visa gift cards.

Prosecutors said the gift cards were supposed to be used to pay study participants, to fund scholarships and provide awards to faculty.

Instead, Brahm, associate director of business operations at WSU’s School of Social Work, allegedly ran a scheme in which he requested the gift cards from school’s bookstore for legitimate purposes, but used them for himself, according to prosecutors.

As part of the scheme, Brahm would use the gift cards in other states to makes purchases for himself at fast food restaurants, gas stations, retail stores, grocery stores and other businesses. He also used the gift cards to pay for medical services, his Direct TV account and his own utility bills, prosecutors allege.

Altogether, Brahm obtained 766 Visa gift cards from WSU each loaded with $100 from February 2013 through October 2015. He was hired by the university in late 1994.

The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

WSU spokesman Matt Lockwood said the university began its own investigation into Brahm in 2015 after the School of Social Work dean contacted school authorities.

Brahm was suspended during the investigation and terminated on Sept. 3 over embezzlement concerns, Lockwood said.

“We went to the FBI. We wanted them to prosecute and show this type of behavior won’t be tolerated,” Lockwood said.

As a result of the investigation by WSU, its Office of Internal Audit implemented corrective measures regarding the use of gift cards, Lockwood said.