UPDATED: VCU president addresses campus community about sex crimes allegedly committed by employees

President Rao sent an email to over 50,000 students, faculty, and staff on Tuesday. He briefly commented on two separate incidents of VCU employees involved with sex crimes, and addressed how the university deals with such accusations against their employees.

Virginia Commonwealth University President Dr. Michael Rao sent an email to university students, faculty, and staff regarding two recent arrests of VCU employees suspected to be involved in various child-related crimes.

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

The crimes to which Rao refers involve a VCU Police officer, Sgt. James DeFord, 35, who was arrested on the morning of November 15 for allegedly distributing child pornography. FBI agents made the arrest.

Rao also mentioned a university employee who was convicted this past Monday on sex crime charges involving children. This announcement took many by surprise, as even police and legal officials in Richmond and neighboring counties were unaware of a conviction involving a VCU employee. The university has yet to name the convicted individual, or to comment as to whether they are still employed at VCU.

Affirming university policy to perform background checks on all new hires, Rao stated: “Convictions related to sexual behavior generally are considered to be job related due to the nature of the VCU environment and the need to provide reasonable levels of protection for students, patients, employees and visitors.”

Rao’s announcement follows separate, ongoing investigations at Syracuse and Penn State universities based upon accusations of child rape and molestation levied against former coaches in each university’s respective sports programs.

Although both the name and current affiliation of the convicted individual remains unknown, VCU Police have confirmed that Sgt. James DeFord has been suspended.



CBS 6 is reporting that the VCU employee that was convicted on Monday was Martin Rengers, who held the title of Payroll Director. He was arrested on September 27 for the sexual abuse of a child. He will be sentenced in March 2012. The alleged abuse took place away from the VCU campus, and there is no indication that VCU had any prior knowledge of the alleged incident before Rengers was arrested.

photo courtesy of VCU

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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