VCU employees’ legal troubles prompt administrative reaction

Michael Curtis
Contributing Writer

In the wake of two arrests of VCU employees, President Michael Rao sent an email to university students and faculty ensuring the – involving what he termed to be “sex-based crimes involving minors” – was being handled correctly.

“While the alleged crimes happened away from our campuses,” Rao wrote in his email statement, “they are deeply disturbing and raise concerns among a university community dedicated to serving others with trust and integrity.”

The first of the two unrelated incidents involved VCU Police officer, Sgt. James DeFord, 35, arrested by FBI agents Nov. 15 for allegedly distributing child pornography. Rao also mentioned the second incident involving a VCU employee sexually abusing a child.

While the university has not released an official statement to students, CBS 6 reports a VCU representative confirmed the identity of the second employee as payroll director Martin Rengers. According to the report, he was arrested Sept. 27 in Middlesex County  for sexual abuse of a child and is scheduled for sentencing in March 2012.

Rengers faces up to five years in jail and will have to register as a sex offender.

VCU also has not released an official statement regarding Rengers’ emplyoment status, but Anne Buckley, director of VCU News Center, confirmed both Rengers and Deford are in the process of being terminated.

In his email statement, Rao emphasized his dedication to providing the safest possible environment for students, faculty and staff.

“We need your continued vigilance in reporting any suspected wrongdoing, regardless of who or what is involved,” Rao stated. “I am deeply concerned about these events and strongly encourage everyone to report any suspicious or criminal behavior to law enforcement agencies, social service agencies, VCU management or the VCU Helpline as appropriate.”

These charges come after a month that saw both Penn State and Syracuse universities come under fire for child sex scandals.

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with several sexual abuse crimes against young boys. Former Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine has been accused of molestation. Both situations still are under investigation as new information continues to be released.

In its report, CBS stated VCU officials did not say whether the timing of Rao’s statement corresponded with the scandals at the other universities.

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