Monday, October 7, 2013

Ivy Academia founders sentenced in fraud case in California

The founders of Ivy Academia Charter School were sentenced Friday morning in a downtown courtroom for their roles in an embezzlement scam that netted more than $200,000 in public funding.

Yevgeny “Eugene” Selivanov, 41, was sentenced to nearly five years in state prison, while his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, 36, was sentenced to serve 45 days in county jail, perform 320 hours of community service and five years of probation.

Selivanov, the school’s former executive director, was found guilty in April of 18 counts of embezzlement by a public officer, money laundering and tax fraud. Berkovich, the former school principal and later president, was found guilty of one count of embezzlement relating to personal charges on a school American Express card.

Ivy Academia has three campuses in the San Fernando Valley, in Winnetka, West Hills and Woodland Hills. The school was known for its high test scores and rigorous curriculum.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus had harsh words for both defendants, but said he found Selivanov, who has a financial industry background and previously worked at Goldman Sachs, was the primary architect of what he called a “sophisticated” scam.

“He took advantage of these positions of trust,” Marcus said. “He created sham financial transactions between Ivy (Academia) and his various companies. Essentially, he’s using this school as an ATM machine.”

According to testimony during the trial, the couple used school credit cards to purchase personal items, including diapers, a “tax secrets” seminar and meals at local restaurants. They also began charging the school $32,000 a month in rent in 2008, up from $18,390 a month, because they owned the land on which the schools sit through another entity, and attempted to collect three year’s worth of past rent at the increased rate. Additionally, a plan to take over a loan held by the school resulted in an illegal transfer of nearly half a million dollars in school assets to another organization controlled by the couple, according to prosecutors.

The rent agreement and the loan arrangement were rubber stamped by a board of directors that was stacked with friends of the couple, the judge said.

“They have cast a dark shadow over charter schools,” Marcus said.

Prosecutors said they hope the convictions will be noticed in the charter school community, and bring a new set of accountability to the management of those schools.

“These were serious charges and we hope the result will be greater responsibility by the operators of charter schools to protect public funds,” said Deputy District Attorney Dana Aratani

The case attracted the attention of the California Charter Schools Association, which filed a brief in support of the couple Thursday.

“This unprecedented prosecution has sent shock waves throughout the charter school community and has stifled charter school operational freedoms. With no guidelines or set of rules on what is an “allowed” or “disallowed” expenditure, no recognition of the rules and regulations applicable to nonprofit corporations, and district attorneys and courts second guessing nonprofit corporate board’s spending decisions years after the fact, charter schools are now forced to forgo their operational flexibility and make only the basic expenditures (e.g., books, salaries etc.) out of fear of future prosecution,” the brief argued.

Berkovich and Selivanov were placed on paid administrative leave in 2010 and voluntarily resigned in 2011. The schools have continued to operate.

Despite the convictions, the court was crowded with supporters of the couple, who called them excellent educators and education supporters. Several spoke to the judge before the sentence, asking for leniency for the pair.

James Thomas, whose son attended Ivy Academia, told the judge he has since transferred his son to another school because the quality of education has declined since they resigned.

“In spite of whatever was put forward, we know that their priority was top-notch education,” he said.

Others spoke of how the couple poured in their own money in the early years just to make sure employees were getting paid and deferring their own salary. The judge said he had received dozens of letters of support.

The observers in the courtroom gallery burst into applause when the judge said he was granting requests for Berkovitch to avoid prison time.

The judge did grant a motion for a new trial on several counts involving incorrect jury instructions. Prosecutors said they are considering their options for refiling those charges, but have not yet decided.

Selivanov was taken into custody at the end of the hearing, and Berkovich was ordered to surrender for her 45 days of jail time within the next four months.

Their lawyers said they will appeal both the verdicts and the sentencing, and repeatedly said the accounting anomalies were mistakes and not intentional, and reflected the difference between charter schools — which are supposed to operate with more freedom that traditional public schools.

Berkovitch and Selivanov will return to court Nov. 15 for a restitution hearing.

NORCO, California: Booster club’s ex-treasurer charged with embezzlement

The former treasurer of the Norco High School Band Booster Club has been accused of stealing $23,000.

Katherine Aileen Chuck, 52, transferred money from the booster club bank account into her own account and used the club’s ATM card to make unauthorized withdrawals, including two at a hotel-casino, according to a declaration written to obtain an arrest warrant.

Chuck was charged with embezzlement and grand theft, according to the complaint filed Sept. 26 in Superior Court by the RiversideCounty district attorney’s office.

Chuck said in a phone interview Thursday, Oct. 3, that she is innocent.

“It’s false charges,” she said.

Chuck added that documents that could establish her innocence were lost in a fire.

She is due to enter a plea in Superior Court in Riverside on Oct. 21.

Chuck was treasurer from July 1, 2011, to Dec. 10, 2012, according to the affidavit written by Riverside County Sheriff’s Detective Angela Carranza.

In February 2013, Billie Jean Walker, the club’s president, provided investigators with documents that showed $43,700 in questionable withdrawals from the club’s account at Altura Credit Union. All of these withdrawals, Walker told Carranza, occurred while Chuck was treasurer, the detective wrote.

Bank statements showed transfers from the club’s account to Chuck’s account that also was at Altura, Carranza wrote. Also, Walker said, there were debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals from the club account that were not related to club activities.

Walker further told Carranza that Chuck was provided signature cards and other identifying information for three board members whose names were supposed to be placed on the club account. But Walker learned that only Chuck’s name was placed on the account, Carranza wrote.

An audit by an accounting company showed a possible misappropriation of band money between $28,317 and $45,068 while Chuck was treasurer, Carranza wrote. The audit further said there were $6,749 in questionable ATM withdrawals during that period, including two on Sept. 15, 2012, at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

The audit included a photo from Chuck’s Facebook page showing Chuck and husband Michael posing in front of a sign that said “Welcome to Laughlin” on Sept. 14.

When Carranza interviewed Chuck on Aug. 15, 2013, Chuck admitted to using band money for her own use when she needed money and said she may have deposited money from fundraisers in her own account, the affidavit said.

Chuck also said she used band account money to purchase gift cards for her own use during a band fundraiser, Carranza wrote. Chuck told the detective that she used the band account to buy items for herself in order to hide the purchases from her husband.

“Katherine estimates she owes (the club) more than $8,000 for the personal use of their funds,” Carranza wrote.

Chuck’s case is at least the second recent criminal investigation involving a band booster club treasurer. On June 28, former Vista Murrieta High band boosters’ ex-treasurer Paul Takuya Nogaki, 55, pleaded guilty to grand theft and falsifying records.

He admitted to stealing more than $212,000 in club funds and has begun repaying the money.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cheerleading Coach Embezzlement case moved to December

The embezzlement trial for former cheerleading coach Angelia Paige Harrell is being postponed once again.

Harrell’s jury trial was supposed to be held Oct. 21, but online court records now show the case to be set for Friday, Dec. 6. This is the fourth continuance for the case.

Harrell is alleged to have diverted funds from the Pulaski County High School cheerleading program for her personal use between March 2010 and October 2011. She was head coach of the varsity squad and a guidance counselor at that time.

According to records on file in Pulaski County Circuit Court, defense attorney James C. Turk Jr. requested the first continuance and the other two appear to have been joint requests of the defense and special prosecutor Erin DeHart, Bland County’s commonwealth’s attorney. No reason for the continuances is stated in any of the petitions.

Harrell was indicted in September 2012.

Valley Charter Operators, Guilty of Fraud, Seeking New Trial in California

Eugene Selivanov and his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, will be back in an Los Angeles County Superior Court tomorrow, asking the judge to grant them a new trial in a case that the California Charter Schools Association says affects other charters within the LA Unified school district.

The two were found guilty in April of misappropriating more than $200,000 in public funds, embezzlement and other charges when they operated the independent charter, Ivy Academia, in West Hills. They resigned in 2010 after their arrest.

A judge will decide either to grant them a new trial or sentence them to prison. Their motions for a new trial are here and here.

Lawyers for Selivanov and Berkovich said the couple were convicted on laws that should not have applied to them and incorrect instructions given to the jury. As a result, said Ricardo Soto, a lawyer for the charter school association, which filed a brief in support of them, other charter operators have to reexamine how they conduct their own operations.

“We believe this case has a chilling effect on the autonomy and flexibility that charter schools received under the conditions they are allowed to operate,” Soto told LA School Report. “These practices are not unusual, but they will have an effect if the case is not reconsidered.”

Soto described the practices as including money spent on gift cards, meals, flowers and other items as compensation and incentives for employees, which he called a  “common practice in business.”

The couple is currently free on bail, and Soto said they are likely to appeal if the judge refuses to grant a new trial. The question then, Soto said, is whether they remain free pending their appeal.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Retired school bookkeeper faces embezzlement charges in Virginia

A former employee of the Tazewell County School System could spend the rest of her life in prison after being charged with 15 counts of embezzlement.
Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee said Willie Kathy Hicks, 53, also known as Kathy Keene, 53, of North Tazewell was indicted Oct. 2 on 15 counts of embezzlement by a public officer and one count of money laundering.

Lee said Hicks was an employee of the Tazewell County School System and was at Tazewell Middle School as secretary and bookkeeper at the time the investigation was started.  Hicks retired from the school system earlier this year.
Lee said School Board Attorney Allen McGraw contacted his office May 19 and told them they believed money had been taken from Tazewell Middle School.  Lee asked the Virginia State Police and Special Agent Joshua Stitt was assigned to the case.
Lee said Stitt, who specializes in accounting crimes subpoenaed bank records back to 2006 and estimated Hicks had allegedly taken over $300,000 from the school system.
A press release from the state police said Hicks took money from the school and school related events and deposited them in her personal account.  Lee said the Commonwealth had originally planned to indict Hicks during the Sept. 10 term of grand jury.
He said Agent Stitt’s wife had a baby during the time leading up to the grand jury and he took time off to be with her. That and delays in receiving some reports led to the information needed to present an indictment arriving one day late.
Lee said the circuit court anticipated this case and some others and did not release the grand jury. They were called back Oct. 2 and presented the case against Hicks and a half dozen other cases.
Hicks was arrested and taken before a magistrate and released on bond.   She will be arraigned and have a trial date scheduled. The release from the state police said the investigation is on-going.
Dr. Michaelene Meyer, superintendent of schools in Tazewell County issued a written statement and said the system would have no further comment. The school board held a called meeting Oct. 3 to discuss personnel and legal matters but took no action and released no statements.
"Upon notification of the potential irregularities in Tazewell Middle School’s accounting for school activity funds, and suspected missing monies, Dr. Brenda Lawson notified members of the Tazewell County School Board.  The School Board took immediate action in this matter by informing and turning over the investigation to appropriate authorities.  At this time, the division has no further comment to make regarding this matter,' the statement said.
 Lee said embezzlement carries up to 20 years for each count and money laundering carries up to 40.

Former Kingwood Christian School manager gets probation in embezzlement in Alabama

A Shelby County judge this morning sentenced a Bessemer woman to a suspended jail term and placed her on probation for a charge accusing her of embezzling more than $63,000 from Kingwood Christian School in Alabaster.

Stacie S. Hollon, 43, pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree theft of property during her appearance in Shelby County Circuit Court in Columbiana. Judge Dan Reeves sentenced her to three years of jail, but suspended the sentence and placed her on five years of probation.

Hollon also must pay $1,000 a month restitution to Kingwood Christian School for 36 months.

A grand jury indicted Hollon in January on a charge each of first-degree receiving stolen property and first-degree theft of property.

Hollon, formerly of Helena, was a financial manager at the school. Embezzlement charges arose after she was arrested for driving under the influence and receiving stolen property on May 31, 2011.

Her arrest warrant filed in court revealed that she had a bank bag belonging to Kingwood Christian School that contained $186 in cash and almost $3,450 in checks at the time. Court documents also stated that she took $63,452 belonging to Kingwood Christian School between Sept. 15, 2008, and May 31, 2011.

The theft of property charge to which she pleaded guilty this morning accused her of obtaining cash, checks, credit cards charges and ATM withdrawals totaling $63,452 from Kingwood Christian School between 2008 and 2011, according to the indictment.

Defense attorney John Medaris of Pelham told Reeves this morning that she diverted money belonging to the school "for her personal use."

The other charge in the indictment accused her of intentionally receiving $4,627 belonging to the school, according to the indictment. The charge claimed that she took the money "knowing that it was stolen or having reasonable grounds to believe it had been stolen and not having the intent to restore it to its owner."

The school, under Kingwood Assembly of God Inc., filed a lawsuit March 13 along with Cincinnati Insurance Company against Hollon and other unnamed individuals connected to theft from the institution. The case in Shelby County has a Nov. 25 non-jury trial date scheduled.

The church claims a loss of at least $117,032 due to the actions of Hollon and any others who may have participated in the theft, according to the lawsuit, which claims the embezzlement happened as early as June 2005.

Minister arrested on embezzlement charges in Idaho

A woman from Oklahoma, who recently moved to Idaho to start a pilot Bible college, was arrested Wednesday on charges of embezzlement out of Tulsa County, Oklahoma.
Melody Miles was arrested at Valley Church in Caldwell following a healing meeting where she was a guest speaker.
A tip from a KTVB viewer led to her arrest. The tip claimed that Miles was wanted in Oklahoma. KTVB independently verified the claims and discovered that Miles had warrants out for her arrest and that she and her husband Ken were in the middle of a felony embezzlement case.
We learned that Miles had two healing meetings scheduled for Wednesday, one at 10:30 a.m. at Valley Church in Caldwell and another at 7 p.m. at Life Church in Meridian.
KTVB involved police because of the possibility of Miles receiving donations without people knowing about the current charges against her.
A KTVB crew met police officers at Valley Church where they waited for Miles to finish speaking at the healing meeting she led.
When she was finished Miles and her husband Ken came out to officers who placed handcuffs on her and arrested her for the outstanding warrants.
After the arrest we spoke to lead Pastor Lynn Hardy who says Melody Miles and her husband Ken were referred to them from a church in Boise.
Hardy was surprised to see police show up to his church.
"When I was told they were here to arrest the speaker I was just stunned," said Hardy. "I was shocked. I've never had anything like that happen here before."

Hardy says he had no idea about Miles' past, that she and her husband Ken are charged with three counts of embezzlement.
Court documents allege that between February 2008 and October 2010 the Miles were doing business as Barrington Design and Remodel Inc.
The documents outline four instances where the Miles took money and agreed to kitchen remodels and home repair, but never began work, and in most cases did not purchase any materials.
They received over $10,000 from four families and are accused of not making any or complete restitution.
Ken Miles was arrested on a warrant related to the charges in May, but Melody wasn't, leaving her warrant outstanding until Wednesday's arrest.
Hardy says neither his church, nor anyone from his congregation, gave the Miles any money.
"It's something that we absolutely have to protect our congregation and then this state and our area if those charges are indeed true, then we certainly wouldn't want to be funding their what appears to be their ministry," said Hardy.
KTVB made a lot of phone calls but have not been able to confirm whether other churches or people in Idaho gave the Miles or Miles Global Ministries any money.
Officers arrested Miles around noon and booked her into the Canyon County Jail where she can either bond out or await extradition to Oklahoma.
Valley Church in Caldwell isn't the only church the Miles have traveled to to share their message. They've spoken to a church in Boise and to Life Church in Meridian several times. We're not sure if any of those churches or its members gave any money to the Miles or Miles Global Ministries.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bethany College embezzlement leads to firings, investigation in Pennsylvania

A Bethany College employee who admitted embezzling more than $500,000 from a check-cashing service and the school administrator who oversaw the operation have been fired, school officials said on Tuesday.
Officials at the small Christian school in West Virginia, about 50 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, also said they have closed the cash window — a place where employees and students could cash pay and personal checks — and replaced it with services provided by a bank.
Prosecutors are considering charges against the employee who was fired after admitting the thefts in mid-August, said Sven deJong, a senior vice president at the school, which has about 1,000 students.
The director of finance at the college, who was responsible for reconciling the account in question, also was fired, deJong said. “There is no evidence to indicate that this person was involved in any criminal activity,” said deJong, who would not identify either employee.
Law enforcement authorities have seized assets at the homes of two people in Ohio who are not affiliated with Bethany College, enhancing the likelihood of the school recovering a significant portion of the stolen funds, according to a letter school president Scott D. Miller sent to students and alumni on Tuesday.
The embezzlement came to light during a routine audit in May of the school's financial activities for the fiscal year which ended in June, deJong said. A more in-depth investigation was launched and Brooke County prosecutors were notified.
Prosecutors asked the school in writing not to release any information about the investigation at that time, deJong explained.
The employee who admitted stealing the money had been with the school for seven years, and the finance director had worked with the school for about 15 years, deJong said.

Education union worker gets jail time in embezzlement case in Ohio

A Jackson Township woman will spend six months in jail for stealing roughly $185,000 from the East Central Ohio Education Association.
Eva M. Gutwein, 54, of 5372 Blarney Circle NW, had pleaded guilty in early September to charges of aggravated theft and forgery, both felonies, for swindling funds while she was an administrative assistant at the district office of the Ohio Education Association, also known as the state teacher’s union.
“I’m truly sorry for what I did,” Gutwein said prior to Monday’s sentencing before Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Forchione. “... I really did try to take care of it and I know that was wrong.”
Gutwein was referring to paying back $97,000 before she was contacted by police about fraudulent financial transactions.
The association represents more than 8,000 members — public educators and school staff as well as retirees —  in Stark, Wayne, Holmes, Carroll, Tuscarawas and Columbiana counties.
Gutwein had worked at the ECOEA office for about 12 years.
The thefts occurred between January 2003 to March 28, 2013, according to court records. Gutwein cashed checks from multiple accounts, used Chase and American Express accounts for personal use, and forged and used four checks with an ECOEA account number, the records said.
Gutwein also forged bank statements and letters without the authority of the banks involved or the IRS, according to court papers.
Forchione noted that Gutwein did not have a prior criminal record. After release from jail, she will be on probation for three years. She also cannot hold a job with financial responsibilities unless approved by the court.
Forchione also said she must complete 200 hours of community service for the Stark County District Library’s literacy program.
“Teachers in Stark County work very hard,” the judge said. “They’re underpaid, under-appreciated and at times taken for granted, and your actions are a slap in the face...”
Hope Konovsky, an assistant Stark County prosecutor, said she believes “it was a very fair and reasonable sentence.”
She also noted the lack of a prior record as well as the repayment of funds, “which we also almost never see.”
“I think it is definitely a punishment to her,” Konovsky said of jail. “And she also still has the prison term hanging over her head if she doesn’t follow through with the rest of her probation.”
Rick Pitinii, Gutwein’s attorney, said it was a difficult case for both sides. “Hopefully she’ll be able to work her way through this.”

A payment of roughly $88,000 was made to fulfill the restitution owed as part of the $185,000 figure cited in the indictment, Forchione said.
“I know how bad it was,” said Gutwein, her voice breaking. “... And I ask for time to heal.”
Prior to sentencing, Angela Stewart, president of the Plain Township-based East Central Ohio Education Association, lashed out at Gutwein.
In addition to the $185,000, the group has suffered financially with penalties and other costs totaling tens of thousands of dollars, she said.
Stewart, the East Central president for about seven years, recommended the maximum sentence — up to three years in prison on each felony.
Gutwein stole union dues money, the group’s only source of revenue, Stewart said. The fraud has been a “huge drain on our ability to serve our members,” she said.
Gutwein showed no remorse for her actions, Stewart said.
“Let me be clear,” she said, raising her voice in anger. “This was no accident. It was carefully planned and executed — the only accident was she got caught

Former junior football treasurer pleads guilty to embezzlement in Michigan

Celeste Foster, the former volunteer treasurer for the Waverly Junior Warriors Football program, entered a guilty plea on Tuesday, Sept. 24 to embezzling between $1,000 and $20,000 from a non-profit or charitable organization.
It is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine or three times the amount embezzled, though she is not likely to serve more than a year if she is incarcerated.
Sentencing is scheduled Nov. 21 at 8:30 a.m. before circuit court judge Janice Cunningham.
Eaton County prosecutor Doug Lloyd said a condition of Foster’s plea agreement is that she remain on probation for up to five years during which time she will make restitution to WJWF. In return, Lloyd said, if the judge decides on jail time, he will recommend a sentence of no more than 12 months.
“This will be a case our office will continue to watch so that the young people get paid,” said Lloyd, who was involved with a youth football program in Grand Ledge. “I want the Junior Warriors to get their money back.”
Originally, up to $11,000 was the amount thought to have been embezzled, according to WJWF president Jim Kilfoyle. Now, however, Kilfoyle says an accountant asked to reconstruct what happened estimates the figure to be closer to $20,000.
“We’ve moved forward and we’ve got a lot of good things going on,” Kilfoyle said of his organization, adding that he hopes for a lengthy probation period during which Foster will be required to make restitution.
“Hopefully she can get her life back together and make good on restitution,” he said.
Although WJWF parents and players were shocked last December when they realized how many bills had not been paid, Kilfoyle said they were heartened by how the community rallied to support them.
“As horrible as this is, it’s amazing the outpouring of support,” he said at the time. “We will rebound and will endeavor to be the best youth program in the area.”
Part of the Tri-County Youth League, Waverly Junior Warriors Football is open to students from fourth- through eighth-grade in Waverly schools.

Sentencing delayed in White Knoll High sports money embezzlement case in South Carolina

Circuit Judge Robert Hood on Monday delayed sentencing of former White Knoll High School athletic director Bryan Butz who in late August pleaded guilty to embezzling money that was supposed to have gone to help equip the school’s sports teams.

Read more here:
According to a warrant in the case, Butz embezzled more than $135,000 from June 2006 to September 2010, when he was arrested. Much of the money he stole came from the school’s Booster Club and was put in what school officials have called a “rogue” checking account in a Lexington bank. Butz then used a debit card to withdraw the money, investigators said.
Butz was supposed to have been sentenced Aug. 28, the date he pleaded guilty. But sentencing was delayed while the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s office and Butz’s attorney, Theo Williams, discussed options for Butz to make restitution.
The outcome of those discussions could have a bearing on how long a prison term Butz serves, or if he goes to prison. He could receive a maximum of 10 years.
However, discussions between prosecutor Robert Elam and the defense are still continuing, with Butz saying he did not take anywhere near $135,000, according to lawyers in the case.
Butz will meet in the near future with Lexington 1 chief financial officer John Butler to go over the financial aspects of the charges against him.
Butz declined comment Monday. More than a dozen of his supporters were on hand to speak on his behalf in the small courtroom at the Lexington County Judicial Center. Only a handful of school officials showed up.
A big unknown in the case is what Butz did with the money he has pleaded guilty to stealing. As athletic director, Butz made $80,000 a year and was one of the school’s most visible officials, attending sports events, mixing with students, players and coaches. He scheduled games and paid referees.
Butz’s embezzlement came to light when Lexington 1 officials noticed a deficit in money raised by boosters, forcing Butz to restore some of the money taken.
At that time, Butz overdrew an account he had diverted money to, causing an overdraft that led bank officials to contact school leaders about the situation. Elam said at the August plea hearing.
Butz came to the school in 2002 as an athletic trainer before his promotion to athletic director.
White Knoll is the largest of five high schools in Lexington 1. It has nearly 2,000 students.

Read more here:

Ex-Oscar Smith band treasurer gets 90 days for theft in Virginia

After wowing the judges for the second time in five months, the Oscar Smith High School band was honored in March as one of the best in the state.
But when it came time to celebrate, the band's booster club was unable to buy a cake. Kimberly Compitello - the club's now-former treasurer - had raided the accounts for her personal gain.
"We were broke. We couldn't pay for anything," said Bobbie Yoakem, one of two women now watching the group's books. She said the club's board considered dissolving.
Compitello, 42, was sentenced Monday to 90 days in jail.
According to court documents, she took more than $13,800 from the organization from July 2011 to December 2012. The theft equaled about one third of the club's annual budget.
Compitello wrote numerous unauthorized checks to herself, court documents said. The mother of two covered her tracks by telling the club's board she'd had an auditor review the books when she had not.
The school's marching and concert bands are privately funded, with money coming from annual membership fees and donations.
"It's not taxpayer money," said Jack Elgin, an Oscar Smith High teacher and the band's director. "It's money these people worked hard to earn."
Club officials said the organization is in debt and having trouble buying basic supplies such as music, drum heads and mallets. When the Virginia Band & Orchestra Directors Association recognized the band earlier this year, the booster club barely could scrape together enough money to buy medals. Elgin bought the "Virginia Honor Band" banner that hangs in the school.
"It is amazing what they have done with so little funding," said January Davidson, booster club president.
State sentencing guidelines recommended a suspended sentence. Circuit Judge Frederick H. Creekmore Sr. ordered Compitello to report Friday to the Chesapeake Correctional Center. He also ordered her to pay restitution at the rate of $400 per month.
"I am truly sorry for what I have done, not just that I was caught," said Compitello, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to three counts of embezzlement.
Outside the courtroom, Yoakem said the club is determined to recover from its financial mess. Since learning of the embezzlement, members have organized car washes, citrus sales and restaurant fundraisers.
"She broke us financially, but she didn't break our spirit," Yoakem said. "There is light at the end of the tunnel - it is just a very long tunnel," she said.
Donations may be sent to Oscar Smith High School, Attention: Band Booster Club, 1994 Tiger Drive, Chesapeake, VA 23320.