Former WKU Professor Sentenced to 52 Weekends in Jail for Theft

Jan 9, 2019

He stole close to a quarter-of-a-million dollars from Western Kentucky University, and now a former professor is headed to jail. 

Following his guilty plea last year to wire fraud, Matt Dettman was sentenced in federal court in Bowling Green on Wednesday. 

Apologizing to his family, friends, and the university, Dettman admitted to years of struggling with addiction and said he hoped his story would shed light the opioid crisis in Kentucky. 

Dettman oversaw the WKU engineering lab which hired students to perform soil and concrete testing for local businesses.  The school was entitled to a portion of those funds, but he embezzled more than $236,000 over an 11-year period.  The discrepancies were eventually noticed by the school's auditor.

WKU General Counsel Deborah Wilkins issued a statement in court suggesting that WKU shouldn't be considered the only victim in the case.  She said the victims were not brick and mortar buildings, but a community of taxpayers, students, parents, donors, and others.

Wilkins noted the scheme continued after his recovery all while being paid a $93,420 annual salary.

"He admits there were other paths he could have taken. For one, he could have stopped. He could have come forward on his own to correct his actions. He didn't," stated Wilkins. "Quite simply, if he had not been caught, he'd still be doing what he had been doing."

Prosecutors recommended 21 months in a federal prison, but U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers sentenced Dettman to every weekend for a year at the Warren County Regional Jail.  The judge said that would be a more unpleasant experience than serving time in a facility for white collar criminals.  Stivers said that Dettman's actions were fueled by greed and "eroded confidence in the integrity of WKU."

Dettman must also make full restitution to the university and be on probation for three years.