In his first interview since being accused of embezzling close to $430,000 in financial aid, Howard University student Tyrone Hankerson, Jr. sat down with News One’s Roland Martin to defend himself against what he calls baseless allegations.
“It’s been an extremely difficult time,” Hankerson said of the days since rumors started swirling. ” … I have not embezzled any money ever and I have not taken or embezzled $429,000 from Howard University. That is absolutely false.”
The exclusive interview comes amid fallout from the recent revelations that six Howard employees were fired last year for misappropriating university-based grants and keeping the money for themselves. An anonymous blog post published to Medium.com this week accused financial aid employees of stealing nearly $1 million in financial aid funds.
Hankerson says he was not among the 6 fired and left the job voluntarily after completing his undergraduate degree in 2015. He told People magazine he has “never been contacted by the university about any investigation” or his student account.
Hankerson, who worked as a student assistant in the financial aid office from 2011 to 2015, found himself at the center of the scandal, thanks to the anonymous blog post which listed his name. Social media was soon flooded with photos from Hankerson’s Instagram, showing him dressed in the finest designer threads and traveling overseas.
He’s since become a target for critics and angry students who suspect his flashy lifestyle was afforded to him through the stolen funds.
“There’ve been a lot of things on social media, jokes and things like that,” Hankerson told Martin. “…I understand as a millennial, of course, that that’s just the nature of how these things go. So I am trying to remain optimistic about the situation. However, it has been a challenge, particularly going to class and worrying about my safety and welfare.”
Hankerson, who is in the final month of law school at the university, said he believes he’s being used as a scapegoat to get Howard president Wayne Frederick out of his position. He said students have been unhappy with Frederick’s efforts to move the university forward in recent years, adding that a student group demanded his resignation just one day a before the Medium post went up.
The article was “a ploy to stick it to Dr. Frederick,” he said.
Over the course of his undergraduate years at Howard, Hankerson said he’s received more than $200,000, which includes grants, financial aid, and pay for his work in the financial aid office.
“I went to school year round,” Hankerson said, noting that he took classes during the fall, spring and summer semesters, and also studied abroad. ” … Furthermore, I think it’s important to note that the money that was awarded to me was through the discretion of university officials who have the authority to make those decisions.”
Watch more of the interview above.