Friday, January 18, 2013

Birmingham schools employees charged in theft of more than $400,000 in auto parts in Alabama

Three Birmingham Board of Education employees are among four people charged in an elaborate scheme that authorities said led to the theft of more than $400,000 in auto parts.
The investigation began in September 2012 when the State Board of Education Intervention Team notified the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office of serious financial discrepancies in Birmingham's BOE Transportation Division. District Attorney Brandon Falls said they passed on that information to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and together they immediately launched a joint probe.
The discovery came while The Birmingham Board of Education was under state intervention for finances and board governance. The probe into the system's finances is still ongoing.
Sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Christian said investigators learned that three men, all employees of the Birmingham Board of Education Transportation Division, were working with an employee of an area parts supplier to create fake invoices indicating the purchase of parts for school bus maintenance. The parts were actually for vehicle models such as Kia, Mercedes, Lexus and Harley-Davidson.
The parts were then taken to private mechanic businesses owned by the men. The Birmingham Board of Education does not have any of these vehicles in their fleet.
During the investigation a search warrant was executed at a mechanics shop owned by one of the suspects, Christian said. A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle and a Mercedes automobile were seized as evidence. The value of the stolen parts, which Christian said were taken over a three-year period, is more than $400,000.
The school employees charged are: Maury Willis Pettway, 50; Marcellous Blackmon, 52; Rodney Everson, 47; all of Birmingham. All three are charged with first-degree theft and use of public position for personal gain.
All three remain at large. Pettway's bond is set at $60,000. Bonds for Blackmon and Everson are set at $40,000.
Also charged in the scheme is 40-year-old Kimberly Watson, an auto parts supplier employee. Watson's bond is set at $40,000. Christian said all four are expected to surrender to sheriff's officials.
Birmingham schools spokeswoman Michaelle Chapman said all three school employees have been placed on administrative leave.
"This was quite a scam this group had going and I am happy to report that this investigation has put a stop to it,'' said Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale. "This bunch is no better than someone that would steal from a child, which in the grand scheme is exactly what they were doing. I am very appreciative of the District Attorney's office bringing this to the forefront.

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