Embezzlement arrest throws foundation

A Chico State contract employee has been jailed, and University Police continue to investigate charges of grand theft and embezzlement totaling at least $53,000.

Melissa Elshafie, 29, was arrested April 12 after being interviewed at the campus police station by UPD Det. Larry Burnham, said Sgt. Eric Reichel.

“We’re not done with this investigation,” Reichel said. “I don’t know if this will lead to anybody else or if this will be the only arrest.”

Elshafie had been a project supervisor for the Eagle Lake Campground, a program administered by the University Research Foundation.

University parks and recreation students had been running the campground and marina under a contract with Lassen Volcanic National Park, which provided the money.

Richard Jackson, who directs the foundation, said revenue that should have been coming in from campground fees and other sources looked abnormally small as the university auxiliary performed a routine internal audit. “That’s what alerted us. It looked like revenues were down compared to what would have been a normal pattern,” he said. “Some of the revenues that should have been deposited weren’t.”

“It’s probably too early to see where we might have been able to do anything differently,” said Joe Wills, Chico State’s public information officer. “People are just sort of shocked and dismayed at the fact that it may have been done.”

Jackson also said it was a sad situation and called Elshafie a “nice person.”

Elshafie was booked into Butte County Jail and held on $15,000 bail. The District Attorney’s Office will determine how to prosecute based on the charges, which are both felonies.

Wills said the university, with the recent addition of preserves near Chico and Butte creeks, had already decided not to reapply to run the Eagle Lake Campground. "The program was not going to continue anyway," he said. "It was a real helpful program to many students in parks and recreation over the years."