When the Cub Scouts of Frederick County held an athletic competition at Frederick Community College a few years ago, Patrick Leo Christoff, then dean of continuing education, gave the event a course number and counted the 8-to-10-year-old boys who participated in it as part of the school's student enrollment, according to state prosecutors.
When the Rock and Mineral Club of Frederick County began meeting at the college, Christoff listed members of the club as participants in a nonexistent "Introduction to geology" course, the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors used these examples and others yesterday in outlining their case against Christoff, who is accused of padding enrollment at Frederick Community College in order to obtain more than $162,000 in state aid for the financially troubled institution.
Christoff, 39, now dean of continuing education at the State University of New York in Albany, went on trial in Anne Arundel Circuit Court here yesterday on ten charges of false pretense and two of attempted false pretense.
In a dramatic opening statement, defense attorney Edwin F. Nikirk, flailing his hands and frequently shouting at the jury, stressed that Christoff "did not get a dime," nay, did not get a nickel . . . not even a penny," of the money he allegedly frauduently received from the state for the college.
Nikirk said Christoff was only doing what he was told to do by fomer president of the college Lewis Stephens, who Nikirk said, told Christoff to bill the state for any programs which required the use of college facilities or staff, stephens was president of the college during the 1975-1977 period at issue in the trial.
Nikirk said Christoff never "unlawfully, knowingly or intentionally" defrauded the state, but was the victim of vague state guidelines that determine how much per-student aid a community college can receive for offering a particular course.
According to the state guidelines, funding is prohibited for courses or programs that are recreational or avocational in nature, or for persons under the age of 18. Before July 1976, a community college seeking financial aid would simply submit course titles to the State Board of Community Colleges, as well as the number of students enrolled in the courses. The more students enrolled, the more aid the college would receive. At that time the state was paid $700 for each full-time student. That figure is now $800.
Since then, the rules have changed so that each college now must provide a course description and course objectives to the state when seeking funding.But, said Assistant State Attorney General Bruce Spizler, the reporting system will relies on the "honesty and integrity" of the persons submitting the information to the state. "The honesty and integrity needed to make this system work was lacking in Patrick Leo Christoff."
Spizler told the jury that Christoff had directed his staff to "make up" names to be used on registration forms. Christoff also included in the Frederick school's enrollment the names of graduate students who were actually enrolled in other universities but were using the facilities at Frederick, Spizler said.
An accountant testified that the school had a deficit of $50,000 for the 1974-75 school year, but came up with a surplus the following year. But in the 1976-1977 school year the school suffered a deficit of $100,000, the witness testified.
Christoff's contract with the college was not renewed in 1977, his attorney said. Spizler noted that Christoff had risen from a counselor at the college to dean of continuing education in part because he had helped raise so much money for the school.
If convicted, Christoff could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on each count.