Recreation center employee gets lost pay back after months-long investigation

For Kieran Robinson, the university was seemingly in no rush to help him.


Illustration by Celeste Andrews

Ryan Lynch, Editor in Chief

After making countless calls and emails to the payroll office and university police, it took junior engineering student Kieran Robinson over 10 months to get the $500.60 he was owed by the university.

Robinson, who was working in the Recreation and Fitness Center at the time as a supervisor, was told by the payroll department in March 2016 that he was owed money after previous paychecks of his were over taxed. The department said that it would send him a check for the money in the mail, which he said he did not receive.

“In March, I got contacted by the finance department and they said, ‘Hey, we got some money for you and I was like, ‘What’s this about?’ and they didn’t really respond to me,” he said. “I followed up and I found out they had been taxing me way too much for the whole two years.”

According to an email from Annie Yahinnian, the assistant comptroller for the payroll and timekeeping office, the check was sent to the address that was listed on Robinson’s account. Yahinnian said in the email that it was the “responsibility of the student to make sure the information in the account was updated.”

The University Press reached out to the payroll office and the recreation center for specific comment on Robinson’s case and further info on how it was processed, but was told each entity was unable to comment due to the case being active. The recreation center forwarded our request to Corey King, the vice president of Student Affairs, but the UP did not receive comment as of publication time.

After failing to receive the money, an employee within the recreation center — who asked to remain anonymous to protect their job — emailed the payroll department on Robinson’s behalf to see if they could help him. Payroll emailed the employee and said that it had sent the money to Robinson via direct deposit through Workday, the system that is used to track employee pay and holds information such as bank accounts and routing numbers.

After checking his bank statements, Robinson found that he had not received the payments. When the anonymous employee checked with payroll, they said that the funds had been issued to a Bank of America account that they believed was Robinson’s.

According to Robinson, he only has an account with Chase Bank, with no other immediate family member holding an account with Bank of America. When the anonymous employee went to reply on Aug. 1 with payroll, Robinson said the department did not initially believe him.

“It was determined last week that the account belonged to Kieran, therefore there is no reissue of funds,” Yahinnian said in her reply on Aug. 1.

Robinson said he is unsure how the school decided that the account belonged to him, given the fact that he was offered no explanation from the budget office as to how they came to that conclusion.

FAU Police did not comment to the UP on the status of Robinson’s case because of its active status.

He was later sent to Bank of America with a tracer number for the transaction, to which the bank said that it would be unable to get him the money and it required a letter from FAU to redirect the funds. After payroll was informed of what the bank needed, he was presented with no other option than to wait to be contacted about the status of his case.

“Now obviously I understand from previously working in corporations, I know that if I go to a bank and say, ‘Hey. I got this tracer number. Can you give me the information on it?’ That’s illegal, you can’t give me sensitive information on someone else’s bank account,” he said.

Another problem came on the heels of the misdirected paycheck in March when Robinson’s student visa expired, which had previously allowed him to work for the university. He subsequently requested a green card through FAU’s International Services department, which told him that he had to wait until April to receive it.

Since Robinson was unable to work without the card, he could not afford certain living expenses. Because of this, he was forced to borrow money from his mom, Heather Ebanks, who said that the missing paycheck would have made things less challenging.

“$500 may seem like a low amount, but with all his other charges it becomes very important. I’m really disgusted, I’m very disgusted,” Ebanks said. “His fees as an international student, he pays $28,000 a year for classes. What is he supposed to do?”

Robinson terminated his contract with the rec center in May 2016 due to his frustration over not being paid.

Initially, Robinson was by Yahinnian that his case was being handled by Corporal Ed Delancy within the university police department, but he said that he was never contacted by Delancy. On Aug. 11, one month after he spoke with Yahinnian, Robinson was told that a new detective would be taking on his case and they had realized that his money had been misdirected into the account of another employee.

University police informed Robinson that his money had wound up with a former employee to whom the Bank of America account belonged to. FAU reimbursed Robinson the $500 in December but would not comment on whether or not any wrongdoing was involved.

On July 7, the university’s Office of Information Technology sent out an email to Workday users including faculty that there was “likely compromise to user accounts…this means future payroll or other deposits will be diverted…not to the employee’s intended accounts.” The email was sent around the same time of Robinson’s communication with university officials.

“If you’re going to move to a new system, you have to make sure the security is there. It doesn’t make me have much trust in the system, especially when you have emails like that you send out,” Robinson said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s not really that safe, it could have happened to anyone.’”

In the time since Robinson’s money was misdirected, the university started using a two-factor authentication system called Duo to add a layer of security to the login process. The system requires employees to either input a code from the organization’s mobile app, receive a call and press a button or receive a code via text to access the account.

Robinson believes that regardless of how the university handled the situation, it should have taken some responsibility.

“At the end of the the day, if you messed up, have the maturity to say, ‘I messed up, I didn’t prioritize this and get it right,’” Robinson said. “I don’t understand what their motive … the only reason I can think of is you messed up and are trying to cover your tracks.”

Ryan Lynch is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @RyanLynchwriter.