Former ETSU tennis coach indicted after comptroller's investigation

Johnson City Press • Updated Nov 17, 2017 at 5:26 PM

A former East Tennessee State University men’s tennis coach was indicted on theft and forgery charges after a state comptroller’s office investigation into financial discrepancies discovered within the program.

Yaser Zaatini, who resigned from his position at the college in March, faces charges of one count of theft over $10,000 and 22 counts of forgery.

According to investigators, Zaatini misappropriated at least $45,540 from the college between September 2011 and February 2017 by fabricating or altering documents he submitted to its athletic department for reimbursement.

An internal audit report provided to ETSU’s Board of Trustees in June estimated the figure attached to the coach’s fraud and abuse allegations at more than $106,000, which included $85,674.61 in questionable expenses related to meals, racquet stringing, registration fees and other expenditures and $20,747.63 in unreported annual leave.

Vice Chair David Golden, head of the board’s Audit Committee, said Zaatini was running a “fairly sophisticated” scheme to forge student-athletes’ signatures on meal expenditure forms and print phony receipts for restringing tennis racquets to be reimbursed for the costs.

The university’s audit covered a longer time period than the comptroller’s office investigation.

In his March 16 resignation letter, Zaatini agreed to pay the university $31,293.13, but made no admission of malfeasance.

The attorney who represented Zaatini in June, Don Spurrell, could not immediately be reached for comment. After ETSU’s audit was released, Spurrell released a statement citing Zaatini’s tennis accomplishments and said “his determination to field championship caliber teams made the financial management of such a challenge extremely difficult.”

The comptroller’s report noted that Zaatini told university officials he used the misappropriated money to fund the tennis program, but stated investigators “could not find any evidence that the funds Zaatini fraudulently obtained by creating false documents benefited the ETSU program in any way.”

A Washington County grand jury indicted him on Nov. 3.

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