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A former Rialto Unified School District accountant was sentenced to five years in county jail for stealing $1.8 million in student lunch money.
“Over the period of her employment, more than $3 million is unaccounted for, and Ms. Oakes is believed to have stolen it,” said Tom Haldorsen, Rialto Unified’s associate superintendent of personnel services, reading from a victim impact statement in a packed West Valley Superior Courtroom.
“When Ms. Oakes stole money from that program, it had an immediate and direct effect on the funds available to provide healthy meals to district students,” Haldorsen said. “For many district students, the meals received at school are the most important, nutritious meals they receive all week.”
Oakes and her late husband, an elementary school principal in the neighboring San Bernardino City Unified School District, had a combined household income of about $196,857 a year. An auditor hired by the district suggested she supplemented that with an average of $221,428 each year in stolen lunch money.Oakes lorded her personal wealth over her Nutrition Services co-workers, according to former coworker Sandie Barnett:
“She would talk down to people,” Barnett said after Thursday’s hearing. “She would go on and on about all she had, all her toys.”
According to Barnett, coworkers were suspicious about that wealth and some of Oakes’ secretive behavior, including insisting that she be the only one to hand over the day’s cash deposits to armored truck couriers.
“Several of us suspected that she was stealing and the powers-that-be wouldn’t listen,” said Barnett, who retired in 2009, five years before Oakes was arrested.
Barnett and her coworkers made verbal allegations to supervisors in 2009, she said. Rialto Unified interim superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam has said any records of complaints against Oakes have been lost or destroyed.
“She lived a lavish lifestyle,” said Detective Mike Morales, the lead Rialto Police Department detective on Oakes’ case. “Ten- to twelve- thousand-dollar-a-month payments to a credit card, high-end clothing purchases, expensive toys, exotic vacation trips with family as well as a companion.”
When police officers searched her home, they found bundles of cash, bound in Rialto Unified money bands. Large deposits had also been made to her personal bank account.
***SUN staff writers Doug Saunders and Beatriz Valenzuela prepared this article – originally found here***
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