I'm new to this website and am posting this question to ask for advice. I'm really stressed and don't know what to do.
I went to a conference with a few researchers from our group. After the trip, one of them approached me and asked me to do him a favor. It turned out he had considerably overspent his limit for meals because of a misunderstanding of the rules. To get out of this, he wanted to claim to have paid with his university credit card for group meals and thereby split his meal expenses between his account and the accounts of others including mine. I didn't want to participate in this, but he literally begged me and said others had already agreed. We logged on to the online tool and did what he wanted. Now I've gotten an email from finance asking me to confirm whether I actually participated in those group meals.
I don't know why they are asking. The email is very short. It may be just a routine verification. But I don't know. They may have found something wrong or suspicious. They may have been tipped off. They may be wondering how we could eat together if my university credit card was charged at a different place at the same time.
Am I likely to get fired by the university if I just tell the truth? I want to be honest, and I hate myself for getting involved in this fraud, but I can't afford losing the job in my life circumstances. I am on a relatively long fixed-term contract, just like that guy, and we are both funded from the group's funds and report to the head of the group. Is it safer to say that I don't want to discuss how we ate and prefer paying out of my pocket if there's any issue? It's just a few hundred bucks in total for my meals and my share of help to that guy. What's my best bet?
Please don't be too hard on me. I need advice. I've learned my lesson and will never let anyone manipulate me into participating in fraud.