San Francisco School Employees Charged With Embezzling $15 Million of Your Money
Six San Francisco Unified School District employees were hit with felony charges after allegedly diverting $15 million in public money into slush fund accounts that were later used for employee bonuses, among other things.
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The accused include: former Associate Superintendent Trish Bascom; former Senior Executive Directors Linda Sue Lovelace and Meyla Fatma Ruwin; former Principal Administrative Analyst Lilian Lamorena Capuli; former Assistant Principal Mychel M. Navales; and Senior Clerk Typist Betty Chuey Wong.
District Attorney George Gascón said the group also misappropriated some $250,000 for their own personal use.
Gascón noted that all of this stealing was going on while San Francisco public schools were suffering from major budget cuts. "My office will not tolerate corruption and will prosecute these defendants accordingly."
Superintendent Richard A. Carranza chimed in at today's press conference where the DA announced the charges: "The District referred concerns to law enforcement immediately upon learning about the allegations and continues to cooperate with law enforcement," he said. "We conducted a top-to-bottom review of the department and its practices and have put in place several measures to prevent any similar wrongdoing in the future."
According to court documents, five of the defendants kept the scheme up for 10 years; Bascom and members of her executive team in the Student Support Services Division (Lovelace, Capuli, Ruwin, and Wong) ordered the money to distribute these funds from the accounts without school administrators finding out.
They allegedly took money to pay bonuses as well as $400,000 in salaries and benefits to off-the-books personnel. They also used $200,000 to establish a computer and telephone system within the Student Support Services Division. In addition, Bascom allegedly transferred $500,000 to a slush fund account held by a prospective employer, which was considering hiring her after her retirement from SFUSD. She later unsuccessfully attempted to transfer another $1.5 million to the organization.
Bascom and members of her team allegedly created fraudulent documents and submitted them to SFUSD in order to divert grant funds to hidden slush fund accounts held at several community-based organizations, including Edgewood Center for Children and Families, Bay Area Community Resources, and the San Francisco School Alliance. Bascom, Lovelace, Capuli, and Ruwin are charged with the misappropriation of public money and embezzlement of public money for their roles in this scheme.
Of the $15 million of public money that was scammed, approximately $250,000 was allegedly misappropriated for personal use by the defendants, including $12,700 Lovelace spent on her significant other, Mychel Navales, as payment for work that she never did for the school district, the DA says. Bascom also attempted to divert another $55,000 to herself and Lovelace, but was unsuccessful.
All six defendants are charged with grand theft, and Bascom has also been charged with attempted grand theft, related to the above acts.
But they didn't stop with that.
On top of the decade-long money theft, Bascom, Lovelace, and Capuli allegedly entered into fraudulent contracts and submitted false claims for payments they knew would put money into the same accounts from which they were personally benefiting. According to court documents, by making contracts in which they had a financial interest, Bascom, Capuli, and Lovelace violated conflict-of-interest laws.
In a separate scheme, defendant Navales is also charged with embezzling $5,800 that was entrusted to her while she was an Assistant Principal of Marina Middle School.
Just think of how many kids $15 million would educate in a year.