Former St. Kate’s nursing dean, boyfriend accused of swindling $400K from school

File photo of St. Catherine University in St. Paul. (FOX 9)

The former dean of nursing at St. Catherine’s University and a man she was romantically involved with are accused of stealing more than $400,000 and taking multiple trips on the school's dime. 

According to court records, in November 2023, officials informed police that former employee Laura Jean Fero had allegedly misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from the university.

During the alleged embezzlement, Fero worked as the dean of nursing and entered into contracts with Juan Bruce and his company, JB and Associates LLC, while she was romantically involved with him, according to the criminal complaint.

Authorities say Fero engaged in transferring funds to Bruce while he provided little to no services for the university. Charges allege JB and Associates LLC was pretending to be a marketing company, but it was meant to "obtain misappropriated funds." 

Court records show that between August 2020 and November 2022, the university entered into three contracts with Bruce and made six payments totaling $412,644.  

Charging documents claim Fero helped Bruce with some of the reports, and she allegedly admitted to editing documents. On one occasion, authorities claimed she had written a document explaining the services and reports he provided during his contracts, which was later sent to the university. 

The investigation also uncovered that Fero took several trips with Bruce and allegedly charged the university for airfare, rental cars, hotels, and airport parking. Court records say the university found over $18,000 of "non-legitimate" charges and just over $8,000 of "questionable legitimacy" charges billed to the school.

Fero left the university in August 2023 and moved to Florida. Police arrested her at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in May 2024 after she landed from an inbound Orlando flight. 

The former dean of nursing told investigators she met Bruce on a dating website and did not disclose her relationship to the school because she thought the conflict of interest policy was meant for "married people," the criminal complaint read. 

Fero and Bruce each face six counts of felony theft by swindle. If convicted, each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.