KU Med School Employee Embezzled $500,000

A former KU Medical School employee has admitted to embezzling over a half million dollars.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 49-year-old Michael Tae Kim Ahlers of Lenexa has pleaded guilty to federal charges of bank fraud and filing a false tax return related to a scheme to embezzle money from the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“Michael Ahlers abused his position as the Administrative Officer for an academic and research medical center, stealing more than $500,000 to enrich himself,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard. “His guilty plea should send a message that, no matter your position, you cannot profit illegally or violate the trust of the company who hires you.”

“During this investigation, state and federal partners worked extremely well together to make certain these criminal acts did not go unpunished,” said KBI Director Kirk Thompson.

“For six years, Mr. Ahlers embezzled more than half a million dollars for his personal benefit, while taking steps to circumvent the University’s Finance and Administration Department,” said David Talcott, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation division in the St. Louis Field Office. “This type of financial fraud is a felony offense that carries severe consequences and we are committed to protect the integrity of the tax system and innocent victims that suffer a monetary loss.”

“Today’s plea is a reminder that the United States Secret Service is committed to aggressively investigating and pursuing financial crimes,” said Brandon C. Bridgeforth, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service Kansas City Field Office. “This defendant abused his position for his own personal benefit by taking advantage of his position of trust and the University of Kansas Medical Center. This investigation is a testament to the strong partnership between the U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

According to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Slinkard, the charges, and other information presented in court: Ahlers was the Administrative Officer for the Occupational Therapy (OT) Education Department at the KUMC in Kansas City. As the Administrative Officer, Ahlers was responsible for all administrative tasks and financial transactions for the OT Education Department, including budget management, purchasing, billing of external entities, and grant management. From at least 2009 and continuing to 2015, Ahlers used that position to steal more than $500,000 to pay for his personal expenses.

To conceal the fraud, instead of forwarding certain KUMC funds to the Institutional Finance and Administration Department, Ahlers deposited the funds into a KUMC Credit Union account. Using the KUMC Credit Union account allowed Ahlers to avoid oversight that would have happened in the normal course, by which funds are deposited into a state-controlled bank account, revenue recorded in the university financial system, and funds allocated to department accounts that are reconciled on a monthly basis. Ahlers also created invoices outside of the normal system, which prevented others within KUMC from learning about the KUMC Credit Union account and Ahlers’ use of it for his personal gain.

Ahlers failed to include embezzled funds on his federal tax returns, resulting in a tax loss for the years 2009 through 2015 of $104,246.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 13, 2021 at 1:30, before U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree.