Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Prosecutors say Illinois school worker embezzled $1.5 million — in chicken wings


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The first signal of hassle at an Illinois school district was when a routine audit discovered it was $300,000 over its annual meals funds halfway by the yr, prosecutors mentioned. Then a evaluate discovered invoices for 1000’s of chicken wings — an merchandise the school by no means served to college students, in keeping with courtroom paperwork.

The bones in the Super Bowl meals staple usually are not kid-friendly, so that they’re not on the menu at Harvey School District 152, simply south of Chicago. But data confirmed the school had ordered 11,000 instances of chicken wings over 19 months, in keeping with courtroom paperwork.

The findings sparked an investigation by the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney, which alleges that the chicken wings had been on the middle of an embezzlement scheme — one which value taxpayers greater than $1.5 million, in keeping with courtroom data.

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An alleged $500 million Ponzi scheme preyed on Mormons. It ended with FBI gunfire.

Vera Liddell, the district’s former director of meals companies, has been charged with two felony counts: persevering with monetary crimes enterprise and theft exceeding $1 million. Liddell, 66, was arrested on Thursday however discharged from jail after posting 10 p.c of her $150,000 bond, officers with the county’s state’s lawyer’s workplace and jail mentioned.

The public defender’s workplace representing Liddell didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark Wednesday.

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Prosecutors say the fraud started in July 2020, when the pandemic had extensively shuttered lecture rooms and introduced each day life to a standstill. Though the Harvey school district’s roughly 2,200 college students had been studying remotely, it nonetheless ready meals that might be picked up, the data state.

The Super Bowl is coming. And we’re working out of chicken wings.

Liddell started putting “hundreds of unauthorized orders for food items, primarily chicken wings,” courtroom paperwork state.

The chicken wing orders, which allegedly continued by February 2022, had been made at Gordon Food Service, a Michigan-headquartered distribution firm that serves because the school district’s important meals purveyor. According to investigators, Liddell repeatedly contacted workers on the firm, who — believing the orders had been approved — would then invoice the school district for the objects.

When the orders had been prepared, Liddell allegedly would make a visit to the meals firm’s facility to select up the meals. Cases of chicken wings would then be loaded right into a cargo van that belonged to the school district, in keeping with the surveillance video investigators say they reviewed.

Employees at Gordon Food Service, which didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark from The Post, “were familiar with [Liddell] due to the massive amount of chicken wings she would purchase,” courtroom data said.

The school district, which incorporates six elementary faculties and a center school, paid for all of the poultry invoices — till January 2022, when the district’s enterprise supervisor was finishing a midyear audit to make sure every division’s spending “was in line with their individual budget,” in keeping with courtroom paperwork. The audit discovered the meals division was lots of of 1000’s of {dollars} over funds.

Then, “upon closer review, [the business manager] discovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for massive quantities of chicken wings, an item that was never served to students,” prosecutors mentioned.

A spokesperson for the school district didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. But interim superintendent Lela Bridges informed Law & Crime that the district “cannot comment at this time because of an ongoing investigation” and is “fully cooperating with the authorities regarding this matter.”

America May Have Eaten Its Fill of Chicken Wings

Liddell, who has not entered a plea, is scheduled to return to courtroom on Feb. 22.

The whereabouts of the 11,000 instances of chicken wings stay unclear. The case at Harvey School District 152 just isn’t the primary alleged crime involving wings.

In 2015, a father and son from Syracuse, N.Y., had been accused of stealing $41,000 worth of wings from the restaurant the place they labored — sticking their office with the invoice after which reselling the poultry. And in 2013, two employees at a frozen-food distribution middle in Atlanta had been accused of taking $65,000 worth of chicken wings.

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