Former University of Idaho employee Matthew Sowder faces felony charges for misuse of public money after reportedly spending more than $1,000 on personal purchases using a university credit card.
Sowder was an instructor in the College of Education and Project Director of Northwest Nations Upward Bound, a college preparatory program designed for potential first-generation college students or students from low income families. NNUB is a federally sponsored program that operates primarily on grant funds received from the U.S. Department of Education. Sowder had been the director of the program since Nov. 2009.
Sowder was investigated by UI’s internal audit services after they were notified of the potential misuse of federal grant funding. The UI investigation turned up more than $3,000 in 43 unauthorized or unexplained purchases made between April and July 2012.
Internal audit services notified the Moscow Police Department in July and the ensuing investigation showed that only $1,000 could not be justified by Sowder as legitimate purchases for the NNUB program.
According to the affidavit filed by MPD, Sowder filed several false lost receipt reports for the personal purchases he made on the university credit card. Those purchases included a $300 tattoo of Lady Liberty at Falling Moon Tattoo in Moscow and a $250 painting of Lady Liberty from Jay Wilson Studio in Moscow. Sowder wrote off both purchases as art supplies for the NNUB program.
Other purchases Sowder made include food and pornographic magazines at ZipTrip and $175 in jukebox music at the Corner Club. According to the affidavit, Sowder claimed on the lost receipt report that the music was for a promotional video and assumed the purchase would go unnoticed. He was able to justify the remaining $2400 in questionable purchases during the police investigation.
Sowder did not return phone calls for requests to comment, and university officials declined to comment, stating that it is against policy to comment when the case is ongoing.
Sowder is expected to appear in court at 9 a.m. March 27 for a preliminary hearing.
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org