Thursday, January 25, 2007

A former Georgetown University official previously convicted of entering the U.S. illegally has fled the country amid accusations he embezzled more than $300,000, according to recently unsealed records.

Pedro dos Santos, who was working as associate director for Georgetown’s Brazilian studies program, became the focus of an internal audit in 2005 after the theft of more than $300,000.

Federal charges of wire fraud and theft eventually were filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The unsealed records show that authorities have not been able to prosecute dos Santos because he apparently has fled to Brazil.

According to an FBI affidavit, dos Santos called a co-worker in March 2005 after he was confronted about irregularities in his handling of university funds.

“I will be in Brazil by the time you get this message,” the caller said.

The FBI investigator found that dos Santos had been convicted in 1999 on a federal charge of unlawful re-entry after deportation, records show.

Georgetown officials declined to comment on whether the conviction surfaced during dos Santos’ employment screening. He worked at the university intermittently since 1998, records show.

University spokeswoman Julie Green Bataille confirmed only that dos Santos no longer works at Georgetown. She declined to discuss the situation further because it was a “confidential personnel matter.”

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, said dos Santos is thought to be in Brazil and that the indictment against him remains outstanding.

He said authorities could not comment further on efforts to bring dos Santos to trial in the United States because of Justice Department policy on extradition matters.

It is not clear whether dos Santos can be returned to the U.S.

Brazil is prohibited under its constitution from extraditing nationals, but has cooperated in some narcotics cases.

Authorities announced in July that a grand jury had returned an indictment against dos Santos. Case files unsealed last week detail his apparent flight.

According to an FBI affidavit, dos Santos was confronted by university auditors on March 22, 2005, and signed a document stating he would pay $300,000 in restitution.

He apparently left the country the next day. A caller identifying himself as “Pedro” left a phone message with dos Santos’ co-worker at about 9 p.m. March 23 saying he was “about 10 minutes away from boarding this flight.”

If convicted, dos Santos faces up to 30 years in prison.

Authorities say he received $311,000 from October 2001 through January 2005 in more than 100 checks made payable to “Nelson Arias Inc.”

Authorities said they could not verify anybody named Nelson Arias in the field of Latin American studies.

The payments, most of them requested by dos Santos, purportedly were for guest lecturing services on behalf of the Brazilian Studies Program.

Dos Santos submitted phony invoices to Georgetown’s accounts payable department and deposited the checks into his personal bank account, authorities say.

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