BRADENTON, Fla. - Fitch Ratings plans to investigate problems that led to the arrest of the long-time comptroller for Florida State University's direct support organization for allegedly stealing as much as $700,000.
Sanford Lovingood, 64, was fired after admitting to the Leon County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 1 that he stole the money from the Seminole Boosters, which raises funds for FSU's athletic department.
The Boosters had $72.2 million of outstanding bonds as of June 30, 2013 that were issued by FSU Financial Assistance Inc., according to a fiscal 2013 audit, in which no problems were detected.
An ongoing investigation into the theft of between $500,000 and $700,000 was noted by Fitch director Colin Walsh in a special comment Oct. 2.
"While this is a nominal sum compared to the Boosters overall operating budget and balance sheet resources, Fitch is concerned with the lapse in internal controls," Walsh said.
The rating agency expects to speak with management about the situation, he added.
On a positive note, Fitch said the security pledged to the revenue bonds issued by FSU Financial Assistance includes revenues from the Boosters and FSU's athletic department.
FSU-related revenues alone include athletic facility rent and net ticket sales, which total $6.85 million annually and cover maximum annual debt service on the bonds by one time, Walsh said.
The Leon County Sheriff's Office has charged Lovingood with first-degree grand theft.
The Boosters discovered "misappropriations" while reviewing banking records, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. A forensic audit has been ordered to determine the exact amount of missing funds.
Lovingood reportedly admitted that he stole money through the Boosters' Morgan Stanley stock account by writing checks to Schooner Development Corp., where he is an officer. He used the funds to pay his own investments and personal expenses, the newspaper said.
FSU is one of Florida's largest universities. Its main campus is in Tallahassee, the state's capital.