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Ex-KU Med Center Official Pleads Guilty To Tax And Embezzlement Charges

Photo Illustration-Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
Michael Ahlers was accused of embezzling more than $500,000 from 2009 through 2015.

Michael Ahlers was the administrator of the med center’s occupational therapy education department from around 2001 to 2015.

A former administrator at the University of Kansas Medical Center pleaded guilty on Tuesday to bank fraud and tax evasion after he was accused of embezzling more than $500,000 from KU.

Michael Ahlers faces up to 30 years in prison on the bank fraud count and three years on the tax evasion count, although he’s likely to serve only a fraction of those sentences in exchange for pleading guilty.

Ahlers was the administrator of the med center’s occupational therapy education department from around 2001 to 2015. While his plea agreement suggests he began embezzling funds shortly after he started working there, he was charged with embezzling funds only from 2009 to 2015 based on available bank records.

Neither Ahlers nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Ahlers diverted the money from a KUMC Credit Union into which KUMC employees contributed funds for office parties, sympathy flowers and other office functions, according to his plea agreement. Unbeknownst to KU, however, Ahlers began depositing student fees and other funds into the account and then withdrawing them in the form of cash and cashier’s checks payable to himself, his business or his relatives.

The scheme came to light after Ahlers left KU to take another job. A student who had been paid twice contacted Ahlers' successor, who discovered a credit union account Ahlers had opened before leaving KU. A subsequent internal audit revealed the embezzlement.

Ahlers most recently was employed as a revenue cycle analyst at Cerner Corp., according to his LinkedIn profile. The profile has since been deleted.

Ahlers and his wife also owned and operated a retail liquor store in Shawnee, Kansas, called Smooth Liquor.

Bankruptcy court records indicate Ahlers filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2019 and received a discharge of his debts later that year.

On his bankruptcy petition, he listed debts of more than $1 million, including nearly $456,000 in delinquent federal and state taxes.

As part of his plea, Ahlers has agreed to reimburse KU at least $500,000 and pay the IRS $124,215.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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