A Charles County, Maryland public schools administrator pled guilty in federal court Tuesday to embezzling federal funds to buy $100,000 worth of video games, cameras and laptops. According to the Washington Post, 41-year-old Rhayda Barnes-Thomas of Accokeek may face up to 10 years in federal prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Since 2006 Barnes-Thomas was a "Title I specialist" for the Charles school system. This year, the district received $2 million through the program to support low income students. The school district serves 26,000 students.
County schools officials became suspicious when brand new laptops meant for the school came up missing. This prompted an initial investigation and audit, according to schools spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson. The investigation was eventually handed to the U.S. Attorney's office.
According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein’s office, 200 items that could not found be were determined to have been purchased with Title I funding over a two-year period. Most of the purchases were made in Barnes-Thomas’s name. Agents found some of the missing items after searching her home and her daughter’s home, according to the statement.
Items recovered in the search included three Nikon Coolpix cameras, three 32GB iPod Touches, a GPS device, two 32-inch televisions, Madden NFL 11 for the Nintendo Wii and a MacBook.
The statement from the U.S. Attorney's office alleges that Barnes-Thomas sold an iPad for $200 to her hairdresser, and her daughter sold another one because she had no use for it. O’Malley-Simpson said the school system plans to file a victim-impact statement with the court and wants sentencing to include restitution to the school system.
Source: Washington Post