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Raymond Prouty waits for his case to be called Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court. (PAT GROSSMITH/?UNION LEADER)

Once trusted, former SNHU budget director now in jail for theft

CONCORD — A 14-year funneling of $1 million-plus into the pockets of Southern New Hampshire University Budget Director Raymond C. Prouty came to light because of an unauthorized athletic scholarship the longtime official procured for his niece.

On Tuesday, Prouty, 58, was led out of Merrimack County Superior Court in handcuffs to New Hampshire State Prison to serve 7 1/2 to 15 years for theft by deception. He was given a second 7 1/2-to-15-year suspended sentence to be served consecutively on a second felony theft charge. He must make full restitution.

Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Gregory Ward told Judge Larry M. Smukler that Prouty cooperated in the investigation, but was unable to explain where the money went.

"It just started and escalated. It's not like I have a million in the bank," Ward said Prouty told investigators.

In May 2012, SNHU's dean of students noticed an unauthorized scholarship given to Prouty's niece. An audit revealed that Prouty, a 1977 SNHU graduate, employee since 1978 and the man trusted with the college's finances, had stolen $1,157,252.24 from the college since 1998.

Ward said Prouty used the money to pay credit card bills; $30,000 went to his father and $90,000 to himself.

Prouty, of Hooksett, also arranged for another niece to receive $73,805 in unauthorized SNHU scholarships. Ward said after the hearing that none of Prouty's relatives were aware of what he was doing; none will be required to make reimbursement.

The thefts by Prouty, a former assistant athletics director, go back 14 years. Investigators discovered he opened a checking account for the athletics department — something the university's financial department was unaware of — in 1999 and wrote checks from it through 2009 covering personal expenses totaling $556,291.91. Those documents were found stored in a closet at the athletic complex, Ward said.

One of the theft charges alleged Prouty also established a business called Only the Best OPS, which received money from 2009 to 2012 from the university — purportedly to pay people who officiated at SNHU sporting events. While a few officials were paid, Ward said for the most part Prouty used the money for personal debts.

They also found a Fleet Bank account, opened in July 1998 and active through March 6, 2001, which Prouty used to pay $56,790 in personal expenses.

Ward said from May 2004 through May 2012, Prouty also stole $95,091.03 from three Hooksett Kiwanis organizations. He was treasurer at the time and would keep money taken in as cash.

Prouty paid the money back with funds he stole from the university, the prosecutor said.

An insurance company has already reimbursed the university $500,000. Prouty made his first restitution payment — $125,000 — Tuesday and is to pay $100,000 annually to SNHU until the debt is repaid. As a backup, he named the university the beneficiary of a $1 million life insurance policy.

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