By Kate McGee, The Texas Tribune
“A Texas State bone marrow registry program became a national model. Now, its leader is under investigation for diverting money to support an affair.” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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For over a decade, Texas State University students across the San Marcos campus — and at public universities across South Texas — have urged schoolmates to help cancer patients by joining the national bone marrow registry.
After a quick cheek swab, a student’s name and tissue profile are entered into a national database. That directory is used by patients diagnosed with blood cancers, including leukemia, who are in desperate need of a bone marrow match.
So far, Texas State’s Cancer Advocacy Movement for Colleges and Outreach, or CAMCO, has registered 20,000 students on campus as potential bone marrow donors. The campus group is housed in the radiation therapy program and led by the program chair, Reynaldo Lozano.
Lozano, 62, helped Texas State create its radiation therapy program in 1998. By 2012, the department latched onto an existing bone marrow registry group on campus and enrolled thousands of students into the registry with the help of annual donations from local cancer care centers.
Yet documents provided to The Texas Tribune show that over at least a nine-month period, Lozano spent money in CAMCO’s bank account for his own personal use. The financial transactions suggest that urgently needed money, donated by small Texas donors to connect patients with life-saving care, was instead being used to pay for a romantic tryst, including payments to the woman’s apartment complex and cash bail to help her after she was picked up on a warrant. In an email, Lozano said she was arrested due to “two criminal charges, assault and theft in Tarrant County.”
A week after The Texas Tribune began asking questions about these records, the university system began an investigation in early November, instantly sealing off documents about the transactions from the public. Lozano’s name and CAMCO’s page have since been scrubbed from the university’s website. Another professor was recently named interim program chair. Lozano is no longer listed as a faculty member on the university’s website.
The monthly Wells Fargo bank statements show the account name as Texas State CAMCO, care of Reynaldo Lozano, and the group is labeled as a faculty and staff organization. The statements include individual transactions that appear to be related to CAMCO expenses like meals at Chick-fil-A and $240 at Sign Arts in San Marcos. But there’s also a $430 payment to Aladdin Bail Bonds and $1,000 to a San Antonio law firm.
It’s not clear how much of the money Lozano used for expenses unrelated to CAMCO. Also, it’s not clear whether Lozano contributed his own money to this account. Neither Texas State nor Lozano offered an explanation for any transactions.
The apparently lackluster oversight over CAMCO raises questions about the university’s management and oversight practices involving on-campus organizations that use Texas State’s name. The investigation comes as the university recently launched a $250 million fundraising campaign, part of Texas State’s bid to become a top-tier research university.
Meanwhile, Texas State has not explained how this happened.
University officials denied the Tribune’s open-records requests for CAMCO’s financial records and receipts. The school’s lawyers argued in a letter to the Texas attorney general that releasing the documents would violate an ongoing compliance investigation into the organization. This week, the attorney general’s office sided with the university.
That compliance investigation began Nov. 4, one week after the Tribune filed an open-records request in late fall, according to a document provided by the Texas State University System.
A Texas State University spokesperson also repeatedly stated the school does not comment on ongoing investigations.
“If deficiencies in policies or procedures are identified during an investigation, the university will take all necessary and appropriate action to address such deficiencies,” wrote Sandra Pantlik, vice president for communications, in an email to the Tribune on Jan. 18.
Texas State did not answer written questions and would not explain how campus organizations that receive outside funding are generally monitored to avoid fraud and misconduct. System spokesperson Mike Wintemute pointed the Tribune to a faculty and staff organization policy that he said is used for “university-affiliated organizations,” but did not respond to questions clarifying if the university system considered CAMCO a faculty and staff organization.
Lozano initially expressed interest in speaking to the Tribune in late October until he learned the Tribune had filed an open-records request for financial records. He has since declined multiple requests for an interview.
Draining the bank account
The CAMCO bank documents provided to the Tribune cover only about a year and a half in the life of CAMCO, from January 2019 to May 2020. In that time, CAMCO’s account went from a balance of $22,772 in July 2019 to $39.99 the following May.
A $1,000 donation from the Austin Radiological Association was among $17,000 in deposits made during that time, according to a check image included with the statements.
During that period, Lozano used the bank account for various unrelated purposes, including helping the 29-year-old woman to secure apartments in San Antonio. CAMCO funds also were used to pay for at least one hotel room for the woman, to help pay her bail, and to pay a lawyer, Anthony Cantrell. Emails show that Lozano contacted the lawyer to handle arrest warrants for unpaid traffic tickets.
The Tribune is not naming the woman because it’s not clear she knew Lozano was using CAMCO’s money. Her mother told the Tribune that her daughter only learned where the money was coming from when Lozano told her a month ago.
“She said, ‘I didn’t know that’s what he was doing,’ and that he just confessed [to her],” the mother said. The daughter has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Tribune.
Bank statements show charges related to the woman started to ramp up in the summer of 2019.
“Perhaps I should really try hard to ignore and forget the passion and romance that surges through my core when I am away from you,” Lozano emailed the woman from his university account on July 20, 2019. “Well I tried. I found in you what has been missing in my life despite being married for so long.” Lozano and his wife of 30 years divorced in September 2020.
By late July, he was using CAMCO funds for motel rooms, one of them booked in her name. In August, emails show Lozano was helping the woman rent an apartment in San Antonio. A representative with an apartment complex notified him via email what the woman needed to secure an apartment there. Not long after that, two payments — one for $1,145 and another for $1,234 — were made from the CAMCO bank account to the same apartment complex.
A neighbor also confirmed to Tribune that the woman lived in the complex and that Lozano would visit her.
Other payments from the CAMCO fund that were made at this time went toward a renter’s insurance policy and a payment to San Antonio’s utility company, totaling about $700; a $691 emergency vet clinic bill; $1,397 to Big Dan’s Furniture in San Antonio; $1,000 to the woman’s lawyer; $430 to Aladdin Bail Bonds and nearly $1,400 to another woman via Cash App.
Addressing a need
CAMCO’s creation in 2009 was the work of Texas State geography professor Lawrence Estaville, whose own bone marrow transplant experience showed him firsthand the difficulty in locating a bone marrow match.
“He felt blessed to have a [bone marrow] donor commit to his transplant journey, and felt called to help others in need,” Angelika Wahl told the Tribune. She is the office manager at Texas State’s geography department who started the program with him. Estaville died of cancer in December 2018.
As Be The Match explains on its website, “A bone marrow transplant takes a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells and puts them into the patient’s bloodstream, where they begin to grow and make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.”
After Estaville’s death, a geography department newsletter said that more than 150 patients had received marrow transplants from students who joined the registry with the help of CAMCO.
In 2012, Lozano and the Texas State radiation therapy department became involved. They started the Kathy Soliz Texas State Radiation Therapy Outreach Program, named after a 23-year-old Hispanic woman in San Marcos who died from leukemia after her expected donor was no longer interested in donating marrow.
They organized bone marrow registry drive events at other schools across the state, including the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M International University, with the help of tens of thousands of dollars in donations annually from local cancer care centers like Texas Oncology, St. David’s HealthCare and the Austin Radiological Association over the years. That money was used to pay for marketing materials and student trips to other campuses for registry drives, Lozano said.
“Flyers and T-shirts require funding,” Lozano told attendees of a Zoom presentation during Texas State’s Big Ideas Virtual Week in the fall of 2020. “When we go out to South Texas, we need to reserve rooms, pay for travel … for meals.”
A Be The Match spokesperson described the relationship with CAMCO as informal but successful. Be The Match replicated the peer-to-peer model started at Texas State through its national program called Be The Match On Campus, she said.
The Texas State program also served as a community service learning opportunity for radiation therapy majors, according to the 2012 press release.
Under Estaville, CAMCO was a fairly informal venture that emphasized student-to-student recruitment to join the bone marrow registry. Over the years, the organization also hosted events like Bra Fashion Night to raise breast cancer awareness and Boxer Fashion Night, which focused on testicular cancer awareness. He eventually opened a bank account to deposit donations for the program since CAMCO was not an official university organization, Wahl said.
“CAMCO leadership was passed on to Lozano to continue the registry events across Texas and beyond, as well as management of related accounts,” Wahl said.
Before information about CAMCO was deleted by Texas State, it listed an executive committee of four people, including Lozano. The Tribune contacted the three other members listed, all of whom said they had not been involved with CAMCO for years and were unaware of the investigation.
“I went to one meeting five years ago … when I was working for Texas State,” Daniel Guerrero, the former mayor of San Marcos, told the Tribune. “But that was the only meeting I ever attended, and I was never really all that involved.”
Legal experts say while universities are generally always concerned about misconduct, it’s not unusual for leaders to assume its employees are following the rules until there’s a reason to believe otherwise.
“To be fair to a university administrator … you hear about a group, you assume that they are following the requirements to exist and to follow whatever university policies they have … especially since it is run by people who are part of your community, part of your part of the university,” said Lloyd Mayer, a nonprofit tax expert and law professor at the University of Notre Dame. “You assume good faith, and they’re following the policies unless some flag comes up.”
But, Mayer said, there are best practices that many universities and organizations often put in place to prevent this type of behavior from occurring and to ensure that donors can trust their money is used appropriately.
Overall, Lozano’s ability to use this money without detection leaves many questions unanswered about whether Texas State’s policies and procedures were abused, went unenforced or did not exist.
While Texas State has policies posted on its website detailing how employees should manage outside gifts and donations through its University Advancement division, it’s unclear whether CAMCO followed those rules or if it was required to by the university. Experts say without those answers, it’s hard to determine the scale of the problem.
“Is this a one-off or is this the tip of the iceberg?” Mayer said. “Because if it’s the tip of the iceberg, then the university needs to think seriously about stepping up its enforcement of these procedures and education of its faculty and staff about them and so forth.”
It’s also difficult to determine how Texas State classified CAMCO. Bank statements list Texas State CAMCO as a faculty and staff organization, but it is not listed as such on the university’s faculty and staff organization page. The university system did not respond to questions about whether it considers CAMCO a faculty and staff organization.
While Texas State’s policies say faculty and staff organizations cannot use the university’s federal tax identification number for their purposes, a February 2021 invoice provided to the Tribune by one CAMCO donor — St. David’s HealthCare — shows Lozano listed the university’s federal tax identification number.
Whether Lozano was supposed to do that is unclear. If he was, experts say that is not an unusual setup, but it does mean the university should be supervising those dollars.
“Texas State University is responsible for ensuring that donations it receives are used for charitable purposes,” said Jill Manny, executive director of the National Center on Philanthropy and the Law at New York University.
“Bigger than a man”
When initially contacted by the Tribune, CAMCO’s donors said they were not aware of an investigation into the group.
Austin Radiological Association and Texas Oncology declined to disclose how much money they had provided over time. St. David’s HealthCare informed the Tribune that it had contributed $55,000 to the organization since 2012.
None of the organizations would say if they plan to pursue legal action against Lozano or the university.
A Be The Match spokesperson said the group was also unaware of the investigation.
“Be The Match is concerned by the allegations,” spokesperson Erika Savilla said in a written statement. “Donor intent is something we take seriously and we always aim to be good stewards of financial gifts made to us. We expect the same of any individual or entity affiliated with us.”
Jon Hudson, a regional director for Be The Match who is based in San Antonio, expressed concern that this might deter organizations from partnering with them in the future, but hoped people would remember the larger purpose.
“It’s hard to swallow that this has happened,” he told the Tribune. “… Texas State CAMCO is bigger than a man,” he said.
Disclosure: Texas State University, the Texas State University System, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley,Texas A&M International University, Texas Oncology and St. David’s HealthCare have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/02/texas-state-bone-marrow-registry/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.