Lauren Michael Flores, a former UC Riverside employee, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 27, after admitting to embezzling money from UCR’s Brain Game Center for Mental Fitness and Well-Being (UCR Brain Game Center), allegedly to support his financially struggling father.
Flores pleaded no contest on Nov. 28, 2018 to misdemeanor charges of grand theft from an employer and insurance fraud. According to UCR’s Director of Media Relations John Warren, in Oct. 2017 the University of California Police Department (UCPD) was made aware of a possible embezzlement case involving a lab assistant and staff member in the Office of Research and Economic Development. The amount embezzled was $2,910, which was subsequently reimbursed by Flores according to Warren.
The office discovered the staff member had written multiple unauthorized checks from a bank account used to pay research participants. Following the investigation, the UCPD filed charges of embezzlement against the suspect and his employment with UCR ended in April 2018. On Nov. 20, 2018, Flores, was convicted in the Riverside Superior Court of 487(B)(3) of the Penal Code, misdemeanor grand theft and 550(A)(1) of the Penal Code, misdemeanor insurance fraud.
The UCR police investigation began Dec. 1, 2017 when Aaron Seitz, the director of the UCR Brain Game Center, first noticed that a payment was made in Flores’ name out of the Office of Research and Economic Development’s bank account, specifically a payment for an auto loan. In an interview with the Highlander, Seitz stated that when he first confronted Flores, he collected the remaining checks and records of payments and asked Flores for his explanation of the situation. After admitting to making the payments out of the bank account, Seitz informed Flores that he was required to report the incident and immediately reported the situation to the Office of Research and Economic Development.
Seitz stated, “At this time I also asked for advice on best practices to address the situation. I then went with Lauren to the bank to report the issue to them as well.” After that, Seitz stated that the situation was mostly out of his hands as the bank, human resources and the police proceeded with procedures to investigate and address the situation.
Flores was a research development and operations manager at the Brain Game Center as well as a lab manager in the Department of Psychology at UCR. According to
Flores’ LinkedIn profile, he is a graduate student at the University of Redlands.
UCR’s Brain Game Center, according to their website, researches, tests and disseminates game software to optimize human brain processes with an aim to make scientifically principled brain games that translate to performance in real-life activities.
“This is simply a sad situation. Lauren has made many positive contributions to UCR and the Brain Game Center. He made some very poor decisions in what was for him an extreme circumstance. This cost him his job among many other repercussions,” stated Seitz. Seitz also added that Flores admitted to his wrongdoings and paid back the debt.