Published on June 8th, 2014 | by Todd Smekens0
Ball State’s $8 Million Swindle Slights StarPress
MUNCIE, Indiana – Timing is everything. I’m writing an article about censorship – a topic we’ve touched on many times at Muncie Voice, but never have I saw such a great example manifest. During our daily news feed on Google, we found a Bloomberg article highlighting the four-year saga, from 2008 to 2012, where a former investment officer at Ball State University was getting swindled out of $8 million by a slick investment manager named Seth Beoku Betts, despite using his business name of Betts & Gambles. Not sure why the business name wasn’t a tip-off to the unnamed investment officer or other Ball State officials.
According to another website called “Ponzi Clawbacks“, once Ball State wired the money to Seth, “Betts waltzed down to the luxury car dealership and treated himself to a Ferrari and a Maserati. The entrepreneur went on a spending spree that would flush away over $2 million in the university’s money on the automobiles and a house in Palm Beach County.”
After hearing the findings of the court, Betts told the judge he was humiliated by the whole affair, “For all intents and purposes, I’m a pauper. I’m destitute. I’m broken“.
Apparently, Seth Betts isn’t the only one humiliated by the four-year incident. Ball State worked overtime to save face. In fact, the 2013 Ponzi Clawback’s article referred to the victim as an “unnamed Midwestern university“.
We have a copy of the U.S. indictment which doesn’t mention Ball State anywhere. It only refers to “an investor”.
As we’ve pointed out many times, Ball State uses The StarPress as a public relations firm and is seldom if ever questioned by the newspaper on anything. This has always been odd since the role of journalists is to hold the public sector accountable – not print stories shined up by a public relations or public information officers. The newspaper and university officials have been companions which doesn’t sit well with many people, including the professors, when they’ve felt the newspaper sides with the administration.
We suspect the same kind of treatment has kept us in the dark about BSU’s handling of the charter school incidents and Eric Hedin’s case. How many other cases have been ignored because of this cozy relationship?
We suppose after reading Muncie Voice’s Facebook post about the Bloomberg article, The StarPress sent the dynamic duo of Walker and Roysdon to save face. You would think the newspaper would be a little upset since this has been a four-year saga with an arrest last summer and a conviction just several days ago, yet nothing in the newspaper. Not one word.
Instead of hammering Jo Ann Gora for ignoring them during the four-year caper and making them look really bad, the newspaper was once again used to shine over the embarrassing situation.
They let Gora express her sentiment:
Unfortunately, there are bad actors. We are not the first university to have been victimized by unscrupulous firms. Throughout this situation we have worked with the State Board of Accounts and other external parties to review all of our procedures and policies with regard to investment transactions. Unfortunately, as our colleagues in government agencies acknowledge, there are no absolute safeguards against fraud. We have taken steps to strengthen controls and enhance our procedures, but we must always remain vigilant.
It was $8 million from a man who named his investment firm – Betts & Gambles. We wonder if the former investment officer wasn’t the daughter of a well-named local dignitary. Someone with a recognizable name, perhaps?
Since the newspaper wouldn’t ask, we did – “Who was the unnamed investment officer? What happened to her employment with the university (The Bloomberg article mentioned, “Betts contacted her, a former investment officer)? Why did you keep this from the newspaper in your back yard? Why wasn’t this disclosed by the State Board of Accounts?”
Seth Betts was sentenced last Thursday to 4 years, according to Christie Smythe, who wrote the article for Bloomberg. We contacted her to see if we could find out anything more about the case.
Ball State University is the largest employer in Muncie, and it’s also the largest public sector agency. The role of the newspaper is to hold them accountable, not issue press releases shined up by marketing and public relations folks. You cannot trust a newspaper who has this kind of relationship with the public sector and you cannot trust a public agency who keeps information to themselves.
If citizens cannot trust what is printed in the newspaper, there is really no need for this out-of-state company doing business in Muncie, Indiana.