A former official with the N.C. State University women’s basketball team is under criminal investigation following allegations that he may have pocketed a little more than $1,000 that should have gone to the team’s bus driver.
Campus police launched their investigation into Michael John Murray, director of operations for women’s basketball, last month after Karla Leneice Crockett, a team bus driver, discovered that she should have been receiving tips from him.
“Mike is no longer on our staff,” Fred Demarest, N.C. State’s senior associate athletic director, said Friday afternoon.
Crockett works for Academy Bus LLC, a private company contracted by the athletic program to provide transportation services for the basketball team. She has been a regular driver with the team since 2015.
She told N.C. State police that on many team trips, especially airport transfers, she never received a tip from Murray, according to a search warrant made public Friday at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.
Because of that, Crockett thought her work may have been unsatisfactory. She “was concerned that her performance as a driver may not have been up to standard and expressed her concerns to an administrative employee,” said Kaylla McNeill, a campus detective, in the search warrant’s application.
The campus administrator grew suspicious and reported the issue to the school’s internal audit division. The internal audit was completed, and school officials suspected forgery. They contacted campus police on Feb. 6, according to the search warrant.
Investigators found what appeared to be forgeries of Crockett’s name through photocopying and tracing on multiple forms, McNeill stated in the search warrant.
The police showed Crockett forms bearing her signature. She identified “multiple signatures of her name which she confirmed she did not sign” and told police that the dollar amounts on the documents were not consistent with tips she received from Murray.
“In some cases, Crockett stated that she received no tip at all, or a tip lower than what was stated on the form,” McNeill reported.
Investigators think Murray may have been taking the money that should have gone to the team driver.
“Up to this point in the investigation, it is estimated that Murray has embezzled at least $1,070 from N.C. State University Athletics,” McNeill stated in the search warrant.
Murray was hired as director of operations with the women’s basketball program on April 6, 2013. Before arriving at N.C. State, he was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, according to the school’s athletic program website.
Murray supervised the daily operations of the Wolfpack women’s program, including scheduling team travel and practices, as well as serving as a liaison for the coaching staff and the team, according to the school’s website.
The court affidavit described “Murray’s former office” in Reynolds Coliseum as the target of a police search for evidence of a crime on Feb. 16.
Murray was given travel advances for each team game, whether home or away, in the form of cash, according to the search warrant. Cash advances range from $350 to $6,000 after the administrator submits a travel advance request each game. The money is supposed to pay for team meals, tips for waiters, drivers, baggage fees and other payment required for team support.
The director of operations is supposed to collect signatures from every person who receives cash and the amount they were given. After the team returns from a trip, Murray is required to submit itemized documentation of how he spent the money and return any unused funds back to the university, according to the search warrant application.
The director of operations was the only school employee responsible for receiving the travel advances and the only person responsible for distributing the funds, gathering signatures and the documentation to the university, according to the search warrant.
Police think the embezzling may have started in 2015 and continued until Jan. 18, when Murray submitted more documentation bearing Crockett’s signature after a team trip.
Investigators used the search warrant to seize a black Sentry safe container, invoices dated from October 2016 through January 2018 from Academy Bus, two three-ring binders labeled “women’s basketball 16-17 containing travel advance documentation” and, for the 2017-18 season, a legal pad with handwritten notes for the team’s travel budget for the current season, invoices for advances to South Carolina, Winston-Salem and Florida, and team travel packets from October 2013 to April 2017 that contain receipts and travel advance documentation, according to the search warrant inventory.
Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald