Loan fraud sparks two new lawsuits

CASPER — Wyoming Catholic College and one of its vice presidents are the subjects of two lawsuits filed this month related to ongoing accusations of fraud against the college’s former chief financial officer.

In June, a federal lawsuit alleged that former CFO Paul McCown faked bank statements and other documents to leverage a $15 million loan from New York firm Ria R Squared.

Of that money, the suit states, $10 million went to WCC as an “anonymous donation,” and $375,000 was transferred to Jonathan Tonkowich, the school’s vice president of operations.

According to the complaint, Tonkowich had introduced McCown to R Squared.

Most of that money has since been seized by the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation into McCown, two new lawsuits filed by R Squared earlier in December say.

But the college still has around $240,000 from that sum, one of the suits alleges. And Tonkowich, the other claims, has around $74,000 that the firm believes came from McCown’s loan.

While the suit alleges that the college has refused to return the remainder of the money received from the loan, a spokesperson for WCC said that in September the institution had offered to pay back a “significant portion of the remaining amount,” but the firm did not respond.

The college was not directly implicated in the initial suit against McCown, and a representative said that McCown resigned his position on June 25. He had been on administrative leave for around three weeks prior, after the school learned of the allegations against him.

Tonkowich was also placed on leave when the allegations surfaced this summer, but later returned to his position.

Joseph Susanka, vice president of advancement at WCC, said in a statement to the Star-Tribune that there has been little communication between R Squared and the college. The complaints, Susanka said, list “a number of factual inaccuracies and false allegations against the College and its employees.”

“The College was an unsuspecting victim in this matter and was in no way a party to the alleged fraudulent transaction between McCown and Ria R Squared,” the statement said. “It has incurred significant and unanticipated legal and administrative expenses because of it.”

In an answer to the initial set of allegations filed in August, McCown invoked the Fifth Amendment to deny nearly every claim in the suit on the basis of avoiding self-incrimination.

McCown reportedly first sought financial advice from R Squared for the college’s endowment. Court documents state that he later came to the firm for personal advising, saying he had just gotten an influx of money.

The suit states he falsified statements that appeared to show a $750 million deposit into his account at Wyoming Community Bank, allegedly using forged letterhead and impersonating a real bank employee via email.

The money seized by federal law enforcement, as part of the ongoing investigation, cannot be accessed by R Squared.

According to the suit, the college initially said it would turn over the entire sum it received once an internal investigation into the alleged fraud was completed. After stating the money was in the process of being returned once McCown’s allegations became public this summer, school leadership allegedly changed course in the fall.