University of Notre Dame Law School.

 

A former clinic administrator at the University Notre Dame Law School has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $200,000 from the clinic over the course of seven years.

Jennifer Ihns, 44, on Feb. 6 pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft as well as one count each of forgery and corrupt business influence. She must pay $199,000 to the university in restitution.

Ihns is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13, according to court documents. The plea came just six days before Ihns was scheduled to stand trial.

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

Prosecutors charged Ihns in May after an investigation uncovered years of financial fraud. According to charging documents, 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. Investigators did not find evidence that Ihns stole directly from clinic clients, but said the full extent of her thefts might exceed $199,000.

“The breadth of her illicit activities may never be fully known,” reads a supplemental affidavit submitted by an investigator from the St. Joseph’s County prosecutor’s office.

Ihns began working at the law school in 2009 as 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. Prosecutors said she began stealing from the clinic almost immediately after she was hired. They found evidence of 255 forged checks.

Ihns covered her tracks in various ways, prosecutors said. 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.

Notre Dame in June 2016 launched an inquiry into the clinic’s funds and quickly identified 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.