EWU athletics official Donald Ross agrees to pay restitution in felony raffle theft probe
It appears the 4-year-old mystery of the missing football raffle money from Eastern Washington University, including the investigation that led to felony theft charges against an associate athletic director, has been settled after a criminal trial was recently delayed this week for the 11th time.
According to court files, Associate Athletic Director Donald C. Ross, 64, has agreed to pay $4,182 in restitution, and several court officials said they have been informed that Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Casey Evans intends to dismiss the two felony second-degree theft charges that were filed against Ross in 2016.
Evans said “definitely there should be some action” soon in the case, but he said he could not comment further. Evans also wouldn’t say whether Ross indicated any wrongdoing as part of the deal to pay the $4,182, which is within a few dollars of the amount alleged to have been stolen in the case.
EWU spokesman Dave Meany said university officials learned of the apparent case resolution when contacted by a reporter.
“We are going to have to evaluate what transpired and reserve comment,” Meany said.
Ross has remained in his position, which includes oversight of NCAA compliance and other duties for the athletic department. The Eastern alumnus, who has been working in Cheney since 2007, made $67,100 in 2014. But he took a pay cut after the theft allegations were levied against him. He earned $64,500 in 2017, according to a state salary database.
“They did remove (Ross) from dealing with any finances,” Meany said. “That was done immediately” after the money came up missing.
Reached at work Tuesday, Ross declined to comment about why he agreed to pay the restitution or any other aspect of the case before ending the phone call.
Ross, who once helped run the athletic department’s fundraisers, was the last person seen with the proceeds from 50-50 raffles held in conjunction with EWU football games on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18, 2014, according to court files.
The school began an investigation after employees discovered that two deposits, one for $2,007 and another for $2,252, never made it into the EWU Foundation bank account.
When investigators asked Ross where he delivered the missing deposits, he gave varying accounts before saying “I don’t know,” court records state.
“I walked the money downstairs and gave it to Justin or maybe left it in Christina’s office since she was not there,” Ross said, according to the documents.
“Is ‘I don’t know’ a reasonable answer for someone with your job and duties?” a detective asked Ross, according to court documents.
“I don’t know,” Ross again answered.
In court filings, Evans, the deputy prosecutor, noted Ross kept changing his story about what he did with the money.
“His first explanation was that he left the money on Oct. 20, 2014, with the female employees upstairs,” Evans wrote in 2017. “After the female employees denied that he had done so, Mr. Ross changed his story to say that he left the money with Mr. Graffe or on Ms. Blum’s chair.
“And when it was determined that neither Mr. Graffe nor Ms. Blum received the money, Mr. Ross indicated that he did not remember what he had done with it.”
Ross’ attorney, Dean Chuang, did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday. But in court records, Chuang argued that prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence and previously asked a judge to dismiss the charges.
“In this case, the fact that Mr. Ross was the last person seen with money does not constitute theft,” Chuang wrote in 2017. “There was no admission from Mr. Ross that he took the money or that he gave the money to someone else or he left the money for someone to pick up.
“The missing money was never found. At the very least, Mr. Ross’ actions were negligent, not criminal.”
The total amount of the missing money was $4,259. Court records, signed by Superior Court Judge Michael Price, do not indicate how the attorneys determined the restitution amount of $4,182.