University of Notre Dame Law School.

 

A former clinic administrator at the University of Notre Dame Law School will spend two years in prison for embezzling nearly $200,000 from the school.

Jennifer Ihns, 45, received a seven-year sentence on May 25 but will only serve about two years in custody. Five years of her sentence was suspended, though she will spend five years on nonreporting probation, according to the St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Cotter.

Ihns pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft as well as one count each of forgery and corrupt business influence in February, just days before she was scheduled to stand trial. She has been ordered to pay $199,000 in restitution to the university in addition to her prison time.

Ihns was charged in May 2017 after university officials conducted an investigation into missing clinic funds.

“The criminal justice system has addressed this matter appropriately,” said university spokesman Dennis Brown after Ihns pleaded guilty. “Thankfully, there were no adverse consequences for our clients or the center itself.”

The law school hired Ihns in 2009 to be an office coordinator and paralegal for Notre Dame’s Clinical Law Center. She was later promoted to the clinic’s administrator and had signing authority over the clinic’s bank accounts.

Almost immediately upon her hiring, prosecutors alleged, Ihns wrote checks to herself from the clinic’s operating expenses account and its IOLTA account—an account that holds client funds in trust and bears interest that can be used toward legal aid.

She altered the scanned images of some of the checks sent back from the bank to obscure the fact that she had written those checks to herself, and she increased the amount of some valid checks in order to boost the amount of money reimbursed to the clinic by the university in a bid to replenish the accounts she was personally looting, they said.

The university launched an investigation in June 2016 and quickly uncovered problems. Ihns initially denied any involvement, but later told investigators she had stolen the money because she was in financial need. She was immediately fired by the university.

Investigators identified $199,000 in missing funds, but prosecutors said the full amount of stolen funds may never be known.