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BYU Star Charged with Felony, Quits Team

October 25, 1996

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ BYU basketball star Bryon Ruffner was charged Friday with second-degree felony theft, prompting him to quit the team and leave school.

Ruffner, 26, was among seven people charged in 4th District Court with bilking a Provo company, Angia Communications, out of more than $200,000.

Ruffner also is accused in a civil complaint filed in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City stemming from the alleged scam.

``I would like the public to know that I have done something that I know is terribly wrong,″ Ruffner said Friday in a prepared statement.

``I am very sorry for all who have been hurt by my actions: my family, my friends, my teammates and coaches, Brigham Young University and the company,″ Ruffner said.

Ruffner, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, said Friday he is leaving BYU because his actions violated the school’s honor code.

Ruffner, one of three starters returning this yearm averaged 18.8 points per game last season, second on the team. He scored 527 points last season.

``Obviously, Bryon’s departure is a significant loss for our basketball team and our athletic department,″ athletic director Rondo Fehlberg said.

Coach Roger Reid said Ruffner’s loss will be a blow to a team which was 15-13 last season and finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference.

``Bryon was our senior leader, our go-to guy and a potential first-team All-WAC player,″ Reid said. ``It’s a huge understatement to say that we will miss him.″

But the coach said his main concern is for Ruffner and his family.

``Basketball at this time seems very insignificant. Bryon has given our coaches and team 100 percent and has been a real joy to coach and work with,″ he said.

Details of the alleged scheme are outlined in the civil suit, which was filed in August. Provo police Capt. George Pierpont said investigators began looking into the allegations last spring after company officials complained.

According to the suit, Ruffner received fraudulent credit to a credit card account and endorsed and cashed checks forged by Joshua T. Kallunki, a former accounts payable clerk for Angia Communications.

The suit says Ruffner assisted in the theft of $44,000 from the company. It said Ruffner has repaid $11,000, the amount he allegedly received himself.

Kallunki is charged with multiple counts of forgery and racketeering in connection with the scheme.

Kallunki also admitted to Angia Communications that he devised the scheme, according to the lawsuit. Because Kallunki failed to answer the lawsuit in a timely manner, 3rd District Judge Frank G. Noel issued a judgment against him on Oct. 11 for $549,000.

Ruffner was named to the WAC’s All-Newcomer Team by coaches and the media and was named honorable mention All-WAC by the coaches.

A Provo native, he transferred to BYU last year after playing at Utah Valley State College. He was named Big West Freshman of the Year while at Utah State.

He is the son of Paul Ruffner, a former BYU center and Chicago Bulls player who for the past 20 years has been color analyst for radio broadcasts of BYU basketball. His mother is a former BYU cheerleader.

Ruffner, an Eagle Scout, served a two-year Mormon Church mission in Chile.