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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
JOHNSON CITY — An audit report released Friday by East Tennessee State University outlines more than $106,000 of fraud and abuse allegations lodged at former tennis coach Yaser Zaatini, who resigned suddenly in March.
ETSU Board of Trustees Vice Chair David Golden, head of the body's Audit Committee, said the hall-of-famer coach was engaged in a "fairly sophisticated" scheme to forge student-athletes' signatures on meal expenditure forms and print phony receipts for restringing tennis racquets to be reimbursed for the costs.
Tracing suspect transactions as far back as 2010, the university's audit team estimated $85,674.61 in questionable expenses related to meals, racquet stringing, registration fees and other expenditures. Auditors also tallied $20,747.63 in unreported annual leave they called into question.
"It's an audit that tells a story very different than the story that many of us have come to know about coach Zaatini over the course of our experience with him ... but what we saw today is that appearances were not what they indicated in terms of what was happening behind the scenes," university President Brian Noland said after the trustees meeting.
According to Athletic Director Richard Sander, discrepancies in the amounts Zaatini reported providing athletes for meal expenses were discovered after two students asked an NCAA compliance director about the cash they received for meals.
Providing athletes with money for meals is not against any rules or regulations, but staff realized the tennis coach was receiving petty cash from the university for one amount, giving students less and keeping the difference, Sander said.
As proof of the petty cash expenditures, auditors said Zaatini copied students' signatures from forms previously signed by the students or by copying them from a computer file. Investigators said most athletes said they never signed any documents when receiving meal money.
The audit report claims the coach over-collected $51,683 from the university for meal reimbursement.
Auditors claimed Zaatini over-collected $17,881 for fees related to restringing tennis racquets.
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