After Lunch Lady's Death, Major Theft Is Uncovered

Authorities say school system employee embezzled more than $260K
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2018 7:17 PM CDT
Updated May 16, 2018 1:03 AM CDT
After Lunch Lady's Death, Major Theft Is Uncovered
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / senkaya)

(Newser) – Lenora Williams was, as Roanoke.com puts it, "something of an institution" in Radford, Va., where she had been the school system's director of food services for years before dying late last year at age 61. After her death, students remembered her kindness and school employees praised her cooking and dedication. But now, city authorities have revealed that Williams allegedly embezzled $261,295.24 from Radford City Schools over a period of 10 years, WSET reports. In 2010, cafeteria staff had a meeting with school administrators to discuss the possibility that Williams was mismanaging money, but concerns were dismissed and police were not contacted. (The school system says the meeting was about other concerns, not money.) In October 2017, administrators discovered irregularities, contacted law enforcement, and started an investigation that revealed hundreds of unauthorized purchases made from an account Williams had controlled and supervised.

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The probe found that Williams allegedly made unapproved debit card charges from the account at Amazon, Walmart, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, resorts, and other stores, as well as used the card to pay her utility and tax bills; she also allegedly wrote unapproved checks from the account and took money from cafeteria money deposits, WSLS reports. She allegedly did so by falsifying audit reports, inflating numbers in order to take funds from the government's free and reduced lunch program, and taking money from student meal plans. In announcing the allegations, the Radford City Commonwealth's Attorney called out the ignored 2010 warning as well as "negligent record management, lackadaisical security measures, and careless accounting efforts." In a statement, the school says it is "taking all reasonable steps to recover the funds misappropriated by our former employee and ... implementing necessary changes in procedures to help prevent such theft in the future." (Read more embezzlement stories.)

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