Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ex-employee suspected of $90,000 embezzlement from Ukiah school

Ukiah Unified School District officials suspect the district’s adult school has lost $90,000 over three years because of embezzlement by a former employee.

The employee, who was fired, will not be prosecuted for the suspected skimming of cash payments because law enforcement officials have determined they are unlikely to be able to prove wrongdoing at trial.

“We didn’t feel there was enough evidence,” Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey said. The Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office concurred.

The Ukiah Adult School, which has about 200 students and an annual budget of $870,000, offers courses that lead to citizenship, high school diplomas and certificates in nursing and English as a second language.

The district has altered the adult school’s accounting practices to prevent future abuse, district Superintendent Deb Kubin said Tuesday.

Because a criminal case was not filed, the district would not reveal the name of the suspected embezzler.

“It’s a confidential personnel matter,” Kubin said.

The school district initiated an investigation in June after an official noted irregularities between the adult school’s cash receipts and deposits made to the district office, she said. The police investigation was concluded in December, and reports were forwarded to the district attorney.

Kubin said the school district is now focusing on making sure there are oversight procedures in place to prevent fraud in the future.

“At this point, my goal is to make sure we prevent anything like this from happening again,” she said. The new rules include no longer accepting cash payments at the adult school, the only Ukiah campus that did so.

Dewey said the case should serve as a reminder to all businesses that they need to oversee their finances. Businesses that are vulnerable to fraud are those that entrust a single individual with their money, he said.

“I would really encourage businesses to make sure they have some kind of verification process in place,” Dewey said.

Following the embezzlement of $90,000 from its Adult School program, the Ukiah Unified School District is implementing changes to how it tracks transactions, particularly when it involves cash.
The biggest accounting problem at the Ukiah Adult School, the UUSD found out, was that it took cash payments and did not have a double-counting system in place where one employee checks another's bookkeeping.
One immediate result of the investigation is that the Adult School will no longer be taking cash payments; students who need to pay in cash will need to do that at the UUSD administration offices.
The investigation was sparked in June of last year when UUSD was looking to hire a full-time administrator for the Adult School and found that the funding it thought was available for that was gone. A UUSD administrator looking into it noticed irregularities between Adult School cash receipts and deposits made to the district office.
The Ukiah Police Department was notified and the school district brought in the state Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team for a state-funded audit.
The FCMAT investigation concluded in mid-October, and the police investigation ended in December.
There will be no prosecution and the suspect employee is not being named. Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey said Monday that unfortunately, although "the DA worked really hard," there simply was not enough evidence to make embezzlement charges stick.

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