Making A Difference At The Charter School

***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***

Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

Imagine you arrive at your high-achieving child’s charter school in the morning and learn the school, without warning, closed. A sudden and unexpected closure happened this week to a local charter school in my area. Financial hardship is typically the reason for a charter school closure.

What leads to the financial hardship can take a few different paths. In my opinion, all paths lead to mishandling funds in one way or another. Bankruptcy can be the result of overpaying salaries, excessive expenditures, or both, as well as embezzlement.

The hardest failure to swallow is because of the type of financial hardship in the research I’m sharing this week.

BLOG POST #147: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case involving the founder and principal of a kindergarten – 12th-grade charter school.

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The Downfall Of A Greedy Chief Executive Officer

***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***

Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

Greetings from Northern California,

Sadly, there was another senseless shooting this week, in a small Northern California community about three hours from where I live.

When shots were heard the school staff reacted quickly and placed the school into lock down seconds before the shooter arrived at the school. A local law enforcement spokesperson said to reporters, he believed the fast-acting staff saved lives.

As horrific as this type of event is for all who were touched by the tragedy, it also triggers memories for many others who were connected to other school crime events. My heart hurts for all who have suffered from this cruel act.

BLOG POST #138: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case involving a school district’s Chief Executive Officer.

Building a Legacy

Before becoming the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the nation’s third-largest, financially strapped, metropolitan school district, she began her career in public education as a school teacher. She went on to become a prominent figure in urban education and served as the head of another large metropolitan school district as the chief academic and accountability officer.

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Corruption At The Charter School

***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***

Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

Robin Lyons' Blog Post #123Charter schools are funded with tax-payer money but managed privately.

They have more flexibility with curriculum, budget, and staffing. Charter Schools are NOT exempt from standard accounting practices.

BLOG POST #123: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case about an Executive Director of a Charter School.

Stealing From The Most Vulnerable

It was the Executive Director’s frequent deposits to purchase a total of $760,000 in life insurance annuities from a financial security company that eventually raised red flags at the company, and they reported the suspicious activity to the FBI, prompting an investigation.

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This Christian School Headmaster Was Especially Ruthless

Blog post #98First, thank you for taking time from your busy life to read my post. I believe with knowledge of school violence and awareness we can make a difference.

Some crimes involving schools aren’t violent. Nonetheless, they negatively impact everyone in the school and to some degree the community as well.

BLOG POST #98: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case involving the Headmaster of a Christian School.

First red flag: One year before he joined the church, the headmaster was convicted of federal tax violations.

Are All Christians Honest?

Private schools have more control than public schools enabling the board of directors to take action more swiftly. At the same time, as you’ll see in this post, private school leadership can be naïve and overly trusting. Who would set out to purposely harm a Christian school, right?

The FBI special agent in charge, in this case, said it best:

It takes an especially ruthless person to steal money intended to educate children and promote religion and use it to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle you’d otherwise never be able to afford.”

Become Indispensable

He joined the Church in 1991 and volunteered to be treasurer giving him access to and control over the Church bank accounts. If you’ve ever been a part of a group or organization run by volunteers, you know, it’s not easy to fill vital positions like secretary, treasurer, etc.

In 1994, members of the church opened a Christian school. Two years later, the church hired the volunteer treasurer to be Headmaster of the School.

As the chief financial officer and headmaster, the board of directors gave him control over the finances and bank accounts.

It’s a Shell Game

He began siphoning money from the church and school 4-years after becoming headmaster. His crime spree ran 16-years. During that time he stole close to 9-million dollars or an average of more than $500,000 per year.

He purchased several real estate properties; luxury vehicles; a boat and jet skis; gold and silver coins; preferred seating season tickets with the local NFL team; and gifts for family and friends. He also took his family on vacations around the world and enjoyed luxury dining. He used school and Church money to build a lakefront house for approximately $1.2 million dollars. However, the project ran short on funds, so he made school employees take a 5% cut in pay claiming it was due to severe economic conditions.

To hide his theft, he opened approximately 29 checking accounts, obtained 26 credit cards, 7 loans, and created 9 limited liability companies.

He also created false audit findings from a fictitious accounting firm stating the school had been through a full audit and received an unqualified clean financial bill of health.

The Jig is Up

Second red flag: His lavish lifestyle became blatant and excessive for the income he received. Finally, the Church leadership became suspicious and called for an independent audit.

In an attempt to prevent law enforcement and others from discovering the nature and extent of his embezzlement activities, he intentionally stole and destroyed school financial records.

He was arrested and charged with embezzlement. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60-months in federal prison and to pay restitution of more than 9-million dollars. Upon release, the former headmaster was also ordered to serve 3-years under court supervision.

What do you think about this case? Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

If you thought this post was interesting, check out this earlier post: Associate School Superintendent

Thanks for reading!

-Robin

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Internal Wire Fraud

internal-wire-fraud-fbBLOG POST #90: This week I’m sharing research on a superintendent of a kindergarten through 12th-grade school district. Although this crime doesn’t physically harm students, it speaks to the character of a person who was the leader and decision maker in the school district.

He worked for the school district for over 37-years. The last 15-years he was the superintendent. After he retired, he was a school board member for five years in the same district. He was so well-liked; a school building was named in his honor.

One of the school board members was a whistleblower in this case. It was investigated by the FBI for two years. During the two-year period, the two investigating FBI agents attended many board meetings.

During the former superintendent’s final eight years, he caused others in the school district to falsely report his inflated salary to the state retirement system. The inflated salary improperly included fringe benefits; car/travel stipends, insurance premiums, a tax shelter annuity, district vehicle payment, and unused vacation pay. His retirement salary was based on the inflated salary.

You might wonder how this became a ‘wire fraud’ case. The salary contribution information was transmitted to the state retirement system using the Internet. The information hit various servers and crossed state lines, making it a federal wire fraud crime.

In a victim impact statement, it was said, “He created an intimidating and fearful culture in which laws were viewed as nothing more than obstacles to be overcome in the promotion of self-interest.”

The former superintendent pleaded guilty to one count of federal wire fraud. He was sentenced to one year plus one day in federal prison, without the possibility of parole. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $662,000 to the Public School Retirement System.

“Today’s criminal felony conviction brings to conclusion an extensive, thorough investigation into fiscal wrongdoing in the school district,” the United States Attorney said.

What do you think about this case? Do you know of a school crime that you feel others should be made aware of? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!

-Robin