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AG says no timeline in URI fraud case

September 16, 2011

The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office says it does not know when it will move forward with charges against a University of Rhode Island professor, accused of obtaining loans on false pretenses. Attorney General Spokeswoman Amy Kempe says the case against John Dunn, a tenured business professor, is complicated.

“White collar crime cases are very complex. It’s a lot of forensic information that is looked at and poured over,” Kempe said when asked why the AG’s office has made no movement on the case since February.

The University of Rhode Island has allowed Dunn to return to the classroom this semester to help deal with a larger than usual number of students it the business school. URI Dean Mark Higgins says it was not an easy decision to make since the school does not know what will happen in the criminal case.

“We’re trying to walk a fine line between these charges, which we believe could become very serious, and the ability to teach our students that in this country there’s a presumption of innocence,” Higgins said, adding that he does not believe the fraud charges will affect Dunne’s ability to teach an introductory business class.

“If we had any hesitation that this would affect his ability to teach the students then we wouldn’t have put him in the classroom,” Higgins said. “Professor Dunn has been a very good faculty member for 30 or 35 years, and there have never been any questions as to the quality of his teaching.”

URI officials say the irony of the situation is not lost on them. Dunne is teaching a class that includes business ethics, even as he faces criminal charges for intentionally misleading lenders in relation to a mortgage application. When the allegations first became known, the university relieved Dunne of his teaching duties, though he continued to work on several administrative projects and receive his full salary. This semester he is teaching a single course.

The Attorney General’s office says staff is currently reviewing the investigation against Dunne to determine how to proceed with the case.

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