A former chief financial officer for a Texas school district is being charged with stealing over $600,000 from a vault, according to prosecutors. The money had been allocated for teachers, school supplies, and other campus needs.
Carolyn Foster of Lewisville, Texas was arrested this week after she had been indicted for federal program theft from the Grand Prairie Independent School District. A statement from US Attorney John Parker states that the money had been taken between October 2014 and July 2015.
"Carolyn Foster was the CFO, and she simply abused her power," said Superintendent Dr. Susan Hull. "She was dishonest with her staff, she manipulated procedures and she stole money."
The alleged theft was uncovered when two finance workers, who are both accountants, began to bring into question the way cash funds were being handled. A statement from the school district notes that this began the day Foster had left the district last year.
"She allegedly ordered this money be withdrawn from the bank ostensibly to use for cash settlements on nonexistent lawsuits and for special cash awards for teachers for school supplies," according to Hull.
New operating procedures have since been implemented throughout the district for the handling of cash in order "to make sure that never again can a single person, even a high-ranking executive, on his or her own authority, gain access to money that belongs to our schools," said Hull.
It is believed that Foster had ordered the money to be withdrawn from district bank accounts and be delivered by armored truck to school administrative offices for over an entire year. It is alleged that she had told finance department employees that the money was for special cash awards for teachers, for school supplies, and for settlements in lawsuits. However, there were no such lawsuits in existence that needed cash settlements.
At that point, Foster could access the cash at any point from where it was kept in the vault. A statement from the district noted that changes were made to district financial procedures, presumably by Foster, without notification being sent to anyone, which allowed her to access the money.
"Federal law enforcement authorities treat embezzlement of tax payers' dollars and theft of tax payers' dollars seriously," said attorney Barry Sorrels. "She did have autonomy, but we did have processes and procedures in place that she manipulated, that she circumvented. She abused the position that she had, and she abused the trust that her staff had in her."
At least two school officials will now be required to involved in any order for cash. A maximum of $10,000 will be allowed to be withdrawn from the bank at any one time.
At the time of her arrest, Foster was employed as an independent contractor for International Leadership of Texas, in Richardson. A statement from the company noted that Foster had been fired from her position upon her arrest.
Foster, who does not have a criminal history, pleaded not guilty to the charges brought before her and was let out of prison on bond. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in jail.