Ex-Phi Mu Alpha member faces fraud charge

Vishal Patel due in court for allegedly spending $12,000 of the fraternity’s money on personal purchases

Story by Alicia SteeleStaff writer

A former member of the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha is due in court Monday to face a charge of credit card fraud after being accused of spending more than $12,000 of the fraternity’s money on personal purchases, according to an arrest warrant.

Vishal Patel, who also goes by Chris, used Phi Mu Alpha’s credit card between Sept. 22, 2014, and March 10, 2015, to make cash withdrawals, buy a plane ticket and pay his cell phone bill and rent, according to the warrant filed in Calloway County District Court.

Patel’s attorney, public defender Cheri Riedel, said because of attorney-client privilege, she could not comment on whether Patel will plead guilty or not guilty Monday. But she said Patel, who graduated in May, had been released from the Calloway County Jail on a $12,000 bond. The Calloway Circuit Court Clerk’s office confirmed that Ashvin Patel paid the bond.

If tried and found guilty of fraudulent use of a credit card of more than $10,000 – a Class C felony in Kentucky – Patel could face between five and 10 years in prison.

According to the warrant, the music fraternity’s president and treasurer discovered in March that Patel had made unauthorized charges and cash withdrawals on Phi Mu Alpha’s credit card.

On March 12, John Fannin, associate professor of music and faculty adviser for Phi Mu Alpha, reported to Murray State’s Public Safety and Emergency Management that the fraternity had given its credit card to Patel to make purchases but discovered questionable cash withdrawals and payments, including to AT&T for a cell phone bill.

Fannin declined to comment to The Murray State News.

On March 24, Detective Sergeant Barry Rice of Public Safety interviewed Patel, who admitted to Rice that he had made cash withdrawals and paid his cell phone bill, but told Rice he thought the transactions totaled $2,500, according to the warrant.

Rice interviewed Patel again on April 15 after reviewing the fraternity’s bank statements. Patel, according to the warrant, told Rice the amount of the unauthorized transactions could have totaled closer to $5,000 and admitted to paying his rent and buying a plane ticket with fraternity funds.

Rice told Patel that bank records showed the total of improper transactions to be more than $12,000, the warrant says. Patel told Rice that $12,000 seemed too high, and Rice advised Patel that he would be criminally charged.

Adrienne King, vice president for Marketing and Outreach, responded on behalf of Public Safety and said the university could not comment on the ongoing criminal case.

Patel, who has been out on bond, agreed to surrender his passport, submit to any random drug testing, stay in Kentucky and have no contact with any Phi Mu Alpha member as conditions of his release. 

Phi Mu Alpha President Michael Miller also declined an interview about the “ongoing legal matter” and instructed other members through an email not to comment to The News because it is a legal matter.