Friday, February 27, 2015

Former Laurel Christian School headmaster pleads guilty to embezzlement

Former Laurel Christian School Headmaster Rick Bartley, 55, pleaded guilty in court Thursday to his indicted charge of embezzlement in excess of $25,000.

According to the Jones County District Attorney's Office, Bartley was stealing cash from the school overtime from 2011 – 2013. The office said when Bartley was previously asked if he had ever taken cash from Laurel Christian School Bartley replied and said he did and the reason he did was because he was living beyond his means.

District Attorney Tony Buckley said if the case went to trial the state would be able to prove that an amount of $58,000 was stolen from Laurel Christian School by Bartley. He went on to say they would be able to provide parents to testify in the case saying they paid Bartley cash for their child's education. Buckley said the state would also provide statements by some employees of the school testifying that all cash payments from 2008 and on that came into the office had to be turned in to Bartley.

Bartley received a 5 year sentence with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with all 5 years of that sentence suspended on condition that he successfully completes 5 years of unsupervised post-release supervision.

According to the district attorney's office, Bartley is not medically well. The office said the sentence given to Bartley is for the purpose of allowing him to return to his home in Alabama so that he is able to maintain his medical visits that he will need in Texas and Alabama.

Judge Dal Williamson said the sentence was not one that he would ordinarily approve of based on the crime committed, but he went ahead and sentenced Bartley to what the state and the Laurel Christian School board members agreed on. According to the district attorney's office, the school board did not wish to see Bartley go to prison.

“You violated the trust that a lot of people put in you, “said Judge Williamson to Bartley. “People looked up to you, I looked up to you.”

When asked if he had anything to say Bartley said, “I'm sorry and for all who hear this I would ask their forgiveness.”

Bartley was arrested after his sentence, booked into the Jones County jail and was then released. The D.A.'s office said Bartley will have to pay back $12,000 to Laurel Christian School.

“He's now a convicted felon, he can now no longer work in many jobs or vote because it's a crime of dishonesty,” said Buckley. “It's also a crime that cannot be expunged by law in Mississippi so he'll have that conviction for the rest of his life. It's not something that any professional person that's been in education with a wife and kids wants to have publicly acknowledged.”

Buckley said no student at LCS suffered as a result of the crime committed by Bartley, who was headmaster at the school from 1999 - 2013

Tustin woman charged in private-school embezzlement

A former officer manager in Orange has been charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from a Catholic school fundraising program and using the cash for designer clothes and private school tuition.

Adela Maria Tapia, 40, of Tustin was charged Monday with 15 felony counts, including grand theft and money laundering, authorities said. Tapia also faces sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000 and property loss of over $200,000.

Between 2006 and 2011, Tapia, a former office manager at the Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange, is accused of taking cash payments from families for a school fundraising gift card program and then depositing the money in her personal bank account, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Tapia also is accused of selling fundraising gift cards to her family members, one of whom is a Catholic church deacon, and then using the money to buy luxury items and private school tuition, prosecutors said.

Authorities launched an investigation in 2011 after the school’s principal found gift cards worth $120,000 were missing.

If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Former charter school director used shell companies to steal federal money

Federal prosecutors Wednesday said a former public charter school director used shell companies to embezzle more than $1 million in federal funds provided to the school for food and educational purposes.

U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday alleged that 40-year-old Benita Dinkins-Robinson, director of the former Mary L. Dinkins Higher Learning Academy in Bishopville, siphoned off money using four shell companies – J and J Contracting, T and E Catering, New Age Computers and Project Reach – that accepted payments of school money.

The school was a part of the S.C. Public Charter School District – a growing group of 31 public schools with 17,000 students and 500 teachers across South Carolina in more than a dozen counties. The Legislature created the statewide charter school district in 2007 as a way to empower parents and others to set up public schools with different missions. The Dinkins school was closed in 2013 after the charter district voted to stop its funding.

The Dinkins school was in rural Lee County and qualified for Title I funding, which allowed it to receive money for food and education for the students from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Education.

But testimony from Janice Crocco, a former 5th grade teacher at the Dinkins school, suggested that the federal funds never benefited the students.

Crocco, who worked for the school for a little over five months beginning in December 2010, said students would often go without meals at lunch because there was no food. In those instances, students would have to wait until pizza was ordered at the school just before they were dismissed.

Crocco also said the school’s overall cleanliness and organization was in disarray. She said when she would take her 12 students to the bathroom, she often brought toilet paper with her because there wasn’t any in the doorless stalls. She also said that Dinkins-Robinson was at the school only two to three days out of the week and would often not show up for scheduled faculty meetings.

Holliday alleged that Dinkins-Robinson would use the funding from the government to pay for a catering company, T and E Catering, to provide food for students. However, Eleazor Carter, Dinkins-Robinson’s attorney, said that while his client was a business partner in the catering company, the state’s charter school district approved of their services. Carter also conceded that Dinkins-Robinson was a founding member of Project Reach and that her brother owned New Age Computers.

Along with large cash withdrawals from the school’s account, Holliday said Dinkins-Robinson would make out checks to pay rent for the building in which the school operated that were in excess of the rent amount due. He alleged that she would spend the extra money on lavish vacations and shopping sprees.

The Dinkins school at first operated under the Lee County School District. It asked to be authorized as a charter school in Sumter County, reporting to the state charter school district, after receiving pushback and alleged harassment from Lee County, according to Carter.

Clay Eaton, a witness for the prosecution and a former public relations director for the charter school district, said when he inspected the school between 2010 and 2012 after it applied to be authorized by the charter district, he noticed the school would report inflated students numbers to the charter district, sometimes by the dozens.

Each public school and public charter school receives funding from state and federal entities on a per-pupil basis. If a public school has a large amount of special needs students or a large student population in general, it gets a higher per-pupil amount from the federal government.

U.S. Judge Terry Wooten dismissed Wednesday’s hearing early in light of the winter storm moving through the state. Wooten said the next trial session will be held Friday, weather permitting.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Woman allegedly embezzled $438,000 from Catholic school fundraiser

A 40-year-old mother was arrested Tuesday for allegedly embezzling more than $400,000 from a Catholic school’s fundraising program, Orange County prosecutors said.

Adela Maria Tapia allegedly used some of the money at the department store Nordstrom, racked up $60,000 in credit card charges and paid for her children's private school tuition.

Tapia, who lives in Tustin, faces two felony counts of grand theft and 13 felony counts of money laundering, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office. If convicted on all charges, she could be sentenced to 14 years and 4 months in prison.

Between September 2006 and September 2011, Tapia ran the scrip card fundraising program at Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange.

The program raises about $200,000 annually for the school by purchasing gift cards at a discount, selling them to school families or parishioners and keeping the difference.

When families paid for gift cards with cash, prosecutors say Tapia pocketed the money and deposited it into her bank account. In all, she allegedly embezzled $438,000, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Marc Labreche.

“It’s all lifestyle enhancement using other people’s money,” Labreche said.

From a safe at the school, prosecutors say Tapia took scrip cards and sold them to family members.

The scheme was uncovered when Tapia was transferred to an office manager position in 2011, prosecutors said.

The school’s principal noticed about $120,000 worth of scrip cards were missing from the safe where the cards were stored, then reported it to the Orange Police Department.

The three-year investigation saw a forensic accountant review more than 83,000 pages of banking and financial records.

It’s unclear if Tapia had retained an attorney. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.

Holy Family Cathedral School Principal Margaret Harlow and the cathedral's rector, Msgr. Doug Cook, said in a letter to parents on Tuesday that the school was reimbursed for the missing money by the Diocese of Orange's insurance company.

The school has since improved the financial oversight of the scrip fundraising program. No programs were cut or tuition increased on account of the alleged theft, Harlow and Cook wrote.

"As a community of faith," they wrote, "we ask that you pray to God for all parties involved, and that a fair and just outcome is the ultimate result."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Glendale HS bookstore manager embezzled $70,000

A Glendale high-school bookstore manager was indicted last week after state investigators claimed she had embezzled more than $70,000 through a skimming operation that lasted for years at Independence High School, according to a report from the Arizona Office of the Auditor General.

Investigators said Shannon May executed the scheme by withholding check deposits, forging signatures and falsely approving purchases, according to the auditor's report.

May was hired in 2006 to work at the Independence High School bookstore where she was asked to manage the store's incoming and outgoing funds and prepare district checks when student clubs requested a purchase, the report said.

It was not until 2010 that Independence High School officials discovered a check that had the forged signature of the assistant principal and the unauthorized use of the principal's signature stamp, according to the report.

May immediately submitted her resignation but the Glendale Union High School District looked further into reviewing bookstore accounts, the report said.

It was then discovered that May had been pocketing cash payments made to the bookstore, specifically between November 2008 and her resignation in April 2010, according to the auditor's report.

Investigators said May had carefully skimmed the bookstore account for those two years by continually depositing a portion of bookstore receipts and by consistently falsifying how much money was actually being deposited.

Reports from the Auditor General also said that May had gone to the bank 65 times to make cash deposits that ranged from $40 to $2,200. May deposited a total of $38,210 in cash into her personal accounts that were held at the same bank as the school district accounts, the report concluded.

After resigning from the district, May made significantly smaller bank deposits, as low as $385, a much smaller number than the $14,110 in deposits she had made in the six months before her resignation, investigators said.

The auditor's report also noted that Glendale Union High School District administrators admitted that cash-handling duties were not properly segregated and that the bookstore's funds were not properly recorded. District officials took some steps to address the shortcomings, including hiring an auditor.

The report released Monday included specific recommendations to increase oversight, including increased training and the development of more stringent policies.

Danville principal cited for embezzlement

A former Vermont principal of the year is facing charges of stealing from his current school.

About $1,600 went missing from the Danville school safe last week. Police say surveillance video shows Principal Edwin Webbley taking the money.
Webbley was the 2011 principal of the year when he worked at Vergennes Union High School. This is not his first brush with the law. In 2012, he was charged with DUI after crashing his car into his home in Bristol.

Edwin Webbley was cited to appear in Caledonia Court on March 23.

Decatur Schools employee steps down after embezzlement charges

 A longtime Decatur Schools employee has stepped down after she was charged with embezzlement earlier this year. 

Michigan State Police say the assistant bookkeeper for Decatur Schools has stepped down after more than 20 years on the job. This comes after she pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges. 

Michigan State Police say they were contacted by a school official to look into the potential embezzlement. 

Sharon Hemenway turned herself in as a result of the investigation during the first week of January. 

Newschannel 3 is told that Hemenway was accused of taking anywhere from five to fourteen thousand dollars over the course of a year. 

Police say the money was pulled from student accounts like the National Honors Society. 

Hemenway stepped down at a school board meeting. MSP says there will be a restitution hearing coming up to determine how much money she’ll have to pay back to the school