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Prosecutor to wait for state comptroller report on ETSU tennis coaches expense claims before going to grand jury

Becky Campbell • Jul 12, 2017 at 11:23 PM

District Attorney General Tony Clark said Wednesday he’ll wait until a state audit is completed before taking allegations of theft against a former university tennis coach to a Washington County grand jury.

Yaser Zaatini abruptly left his position as head coach of the East Tennessee State University men’s tennis program March 16 — and included a promissory note stating he would repay money and forfeit accrued compensatory time to the institution.

In his letter to ETSU President Brian Noland, obtained through a Tennessee Open Records request filed after his resignation was announced, Zaatini wrote “In conjunction with my resignation, I waive all annual leave accruals and have executed the enclosed promissory note promising to pay the university $31,293.13 consistent therewith.

“In connection with this resignation I make no admission of malfeasance.”

ETSU released the findings of an internal audit that outlined more than $106,000 of fraud and abuse allegations.

At the time, ETSU Board of Trustees member David Golden, head of the body’s Audit Committee, said the hall of fame coach was engaged in a “fairly sophisticated” scheme to falsify student-athletes’ signatures on meal expenditure forms and print phony receipts for restringing tennis racquets to be reimbursed for the costs.

Tracing suspect transactions as far back as 2010, the university’s audit team estimated $85,674.61 in questionable expenses related to meal expenses, racquet stringing, registration fees and other expenditures. Auditors also tallied $20,747.63 in unreported annual leave they called into question.

Even with the ETSU internal audit, Clark said if there were any charges, the state comptroller’s office would be the prosecuting agency, so he wanted to wait for that report before proceeding to the grand jury.

“I still haven't gotten the comptroller’s report and that’s what I’m waiting on,” Clark said Wednesday as the grand jury was wrapping up cases it heard earlier. “ETSU gave me their internal affairs report, but the comptroller hasn’t finished their investigation.”

Clark said the next grand jury in Washington County meets Sept. 7 and Sept. 8.

“We want to make sure we have everything there might be before we move forward,” he said.

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