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Two educators in New Jersey were charged with pocketing nearly $45,000 from a non profit

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Police arrested the principal of Piscataway Technical High School, charging him and the county vo-tech district’s assistant superintendent with theft, conspiracy, burglary and money laundering.

The principal, Joseph Armstead, 47, of Washington Township in Warren County, was charged with stealing from a nonprofit organization that tutors urban youth by issuing checks to himself and Brian Bilal.

Armstead is also accused of stealing $10,000 worth of property from the nonprofit. The goods were found in a storage facility in Edison, prosecutors say. The total amount that he is accused of stealing, including using a credit card for his personal use.

Bilal, 47, of Dunellen, meanwhile, is accused of stealing $12,350 from the nonprofit.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said Armstead issued the checks between March 2016 and August 2017 even though neither man was employed by the nonprofit.

Armstead earns $127,000 as head of the school located on Suttons Lane. He also works for Kean University and Aspire High Youth Development in Piscataway, according to his financial disclosure statement. He could not be reached for comment.

Bilal earns $143,000, according to pension records.

Armstead is charged with two counts of third-degree theft, one count of third-degree burglary, and one count of third-degree money laundering. Bilal is charged with third-degree theft and conspiracy to commit theft.

Armstead and Bilal were processed and released pending their initial court appearance in Middlesex County Superior Court on May 3, 2018.

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  • April 17, 2018

A former school bookkeeper pleaded guilty to committing fraud in New Mexico

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Antoinette Garcia, 45, was charged for embezzling grant funds received by the Bernalillo Public Schools system.  According to court documents Garcia admits she stole up to $95,000 to pay her own bills and expenses.

Garcia was previously indicted on fraud and embezzlement charges for allegedly stealing from a credit union where she used to work. But Bernalillo Public Schools didn’t know about it because Garcia completed a “diversion” program and avoided prosecution.

The district started investigating once vendors started calling, saying they weren’t getting paid. Money was missing from the school’s general account and parent-teacher organization accounts.

The missing money should have gone to classrooms. As forensic audit states, some of that money was raised through school fundraisers.

A former school teaching assistant Emma Ortiz said: “I think it’s sad, it’s terrible, it’s wrong.” “A hundred dollars is a lot of money that can provide any kind of school supplies, teachers are buying their own supplies for kids.”

Garcia is still awaiting sentencing. She faces up to 10 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

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  • April 12, 2018

StarShine Academy Charter school owner used school funds for Hawaiian vacations and spiritual healers

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Phoenix charter school was sinking in debt, while its owner spent taxpayer dollars to support her lavish lifestyle. Like two Hawaiian vacations, a European vacation, personal gym membership, and sessions with “spiritual healers”.

A court-appointed trustee flagged at least $37,157 of spending by Patricia McCarty that the trustee considered inappropriate. In a phone interview, McCarty denied misspending school funds but declined to discuss specific expenditures. “I care about what I do. And most people who know me know I care about what I’m doing for the right reason,” McCarty said.

The United States Trustee for the District of Arizona accused McCarty of “fraud, dishonesty, incompetence, gross mismanagement, and breach of fiduciary duty to creditors.” Investigators challenged some of McCarty’s expenses, trustee wrote in court documents. “She provided supporting documents with “outright fabrications, intended to disguise that she was using taxpayer funds for her personal expenses”.

Among the flagged expenses were listed:

$623.52 spent on “Waste Management Large Container Drop Off for Tree Branches,” while a former employee told investigators the expense was actually for the Waste Management Open.

$94.60 spent at a Walmart listing the expense as “classroom supplies”. The WalMart was in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Investigators found $500 spent at “Spirit Repair, LLC, in North Carolina. McCarty said it was for a “Spirit Repair Heart Math School License to raise math student test scores.” Instead, the investigator said it was a session with a spiritual healer.

StarShine Academy amassed nearly $3 million in debt, according to bankruptcy records. The State Board for Charter Schools says it will shut down StarShine after this school year.

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  • April 12, 2018

Money collected by students for school supplies never made it to the bank account

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In the past, students at Walnut Grove Elementary School in Southlake, TX, paid cash for supplies and various school activities. But some of the funds were never accounted for.

Officials in the Carroll school district performed a five-year audit going back to 2011. They found several discrepancies in the cash account and deposit slips.

The discrepancies occurred from Sept. 1, 2011, until May 30, 2015, records state. That money was collected by Donna Feuchter, an assistant to the principal. “There’s no records on how it was spent,” said Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County criminal district attorney’s office.

Feuchter, 58, was sentenced to three years deferred adjudication probation on a charge of theft of property $20,000 to $100,000. She also was ordered to pay $47,034.79 in restitution, which she did on March 9 when she entered her plea. As part of a plea agreement, Feuchter pleaded no contest to the charge, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. She has also been ordered to complete a theft intervention and prevention program.

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  • April 11, 2018

A former Principal in Delaware gets a year in prison for stealing nearly $150,000

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Noel Rodriquez, 56, was sentenced after admitting to stealing from a federal program at the Academy of Dover. Over 3 years (2011-2014) Rodriguez stole nearly $150,000 from the school.

He stole using three methods, according to court records:

  1. Rodriguez used the state-issued charter school procurement card to purchase $85,000 in items for his use.
  2. He opened credit cards in the school’s name at the Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club and Staples, charging $56,000 to those cards.
  3. He also siphoned off about $4,000 from a state education voucher program.

Rodriguez’s scheming ended when the State Auditor discovered issues in the school’s accounts. The auditor’s office said the school’s Board of Directors allowed the abuse to go on because it was poorly-trained and too cozy with Rodriguez and thus did little to hold him accountable. Some school staff called him a “bully” and a “manipulator”.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Hatcher wrote in the sentencing document: “Defendant’s conduct was a brazen betrayal of public trust. He used his position to funnel money. It was a multi-faceted scheme, driven by greed, to embezzle money that was intended for the children he promised to serve.”

Rodriguez will serve a year and a month in prison and must pay $145,480 in restitution. Academy of Dover was placed on formal review because of concerns about its financial management. If state regulators aren’t convinced the school has put its financial house in order, they could close it.

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  • April 11, 2018

Fake eyelashes purchase helped to discover more than $100,000 of embezzled school money

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A former administrator at McKeel Academy and Kathleen Middle School has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from the schools.

Circuit Judge Mark Carpanini also ordered Ginger Collins to pay $105,275 in restitution to the schools during the three years of probation she was ordered to serve following her release from prison.

Collins, who was arrested for the McKeel Academy theft in January 2017 and faced additional charges in July when the Kathleen Middle School theft came to light, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree grand theft and a single count each of money laundering and scheme to defraud. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining 17 charges against her.

She could have faced up to 50 years in prison for the three counts, but her plea agreement called for four years in prison.

She made no statements during the brief court hearing other than to answer Carpanini’s questions that she was pleading to the allegations voluntarily.

Collins was assistant director of academics at McKeel Academy in September 2016 when she was confronted by school administrators about the alleged fraud and theft. She resigned her position at that time but wasn’t arrested on the criminal charges until four months later.

In January 2017, Polk County deputies charged her with grand theft, fraud, fraudulent use of a credit card, money laundering and criminal use of personal identification, according to court records.

School administrators reported they became suspicious after Collins purchased a prom dress and false eyelashes using the school’s credit card. Collins had marked the purchases as “Legacy fund” and “Marketing.” That triggered an in-depth review, which revealed Collins had created fictitious companies and fraudulent Paypal accounts to channel stolen funds.

Detectives arrested her on 60 counts of dealing in stolen property, 16 counts of passing forged or altered documents, two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card and one count each of obtaining property by fraud, money laundering and grand theft.

The State Attorney’s Office later consolidated those charges into 13 counts, including scheme to defraud, a second-degree felony carrying a maximum 15-year prison term. In the Kathleen Middle School case, Collins was accused of using Polk County School Board credit cards to purchase products for the school and selling them online.

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  • April 6, 2018

More than $60,000 of school money was stolen by Norwood superintendent

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Norwood superintendent stole $60,000-plus by intercepting charter school checks.

Rob Amodio pleaded guilty to the theft, according to a release from Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost’s office.

He intercepted checks and deposited to accounts he controlled by fraudulently endorsing them with the stamp of the school’s treasurer.  Afterwards, he wrote checks to himself from those accounts and used them to pay for personal expenses at Capitol One, Citibank and Kohls.

Amodio was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $63,004. The school district received a full repayment from his attorney on the same day.

According to the Auditor, “This thief capitalized on a perfect storm of internal control breakdowns”.

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  • April 6, 2018

Nearly $60,000 was stolen by a former school Principal in Baltimore

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School Principal in Baltimore pleaded guilty to stealing school money and system technology.  Leslie N. Lewis, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft for taking more than $58,000 from the Baltimore City school system.

According to prosecutors the school had a bank account that was set up with the proceeds from the sale of school uniforms, snacks, school supplies and graduation fees. Lewis used a debit card to make cash withdrawals and purchases at local casinos of about $13,000.

In a second case, she used deceptive purchase orders to steal over $45,000 worth of technology from the city through its internal purchasing system between 2013 and 2016. The statement of fact states that she stole a dryer, a Bose speaker system, Apple laptops, laser printers, digital cameras and other items for her personal use.

Lewis is the third city Principal to be convicted of stealing from student activity funds since 2013. In 2015, Alisha Trusty, the former Principal of Western High School, pleaded guilty to stealing $54,000 from the school’s activity fund.

Baltimore City Circuit Judge Charles Peters sentenced Lewis to five years, but suspended all but 90 days on each count. Lewis  will serve 5 years of supervised probation and has to return $58,689 to the school system.

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  • April 6, 2018
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