Prosecutors say Illinois faculty employee embezzled $1.5 million — in rooster wings


The primary signal of hassle at an Illinois faculty district was when a routine audit discovered it was $300,000 over its annual meals price range halfway by the yr, prosecutors stated. Then a evaluation discovered invoices for 1000’s of rooster wings — an merchandise the college by no means served to college students, based on court docket paperwork.

The bones within the Tremendous Bowl meals staple should not kid-friendly, so that they’re not on the menu at Harvey Faculty District 152, simply south of Chicago. However data confirmed the college had ordered 11,000 circumstances of rooster wings over 19 months, based on court docket paperwork.

The findings sparked an investigation by the Workplace of the Cook dinner County State’s Legal professional, which alleges that the rooster wings had been on the heart of an embezzlement scheme — one which price taxpayers greater than $1.5 million, based on court docket data.

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Vera Liddell, the district’s former director of meals providers, 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 % of her $150,000 bond, officers with the county’s state’s legal professional’s workplace and jail stated.

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

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

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Liddell started inserting “lots of of unauthorized orders for meals objects, primarily rooster wings,” court docket paperwork state.

The rooster wing orders, which allegedly continued by February 2022, had been made at Gordon Meals Service, a Michigan-headquartered distribution firm that serves as the college district’s essential meals purveyor. In response to investigators, Liddell usually contacted workers on the firm, who — believing the orders had been licensed — would then invoice the college district for the objects.

When the orders had been prepared, Liddell allegedly would make a visit to the meals firm’s facility to choose up the meals. Circumstances of rooster wings would then be loaded right into a cargo van that belonged to the college district, based on the surveillance video investigators say they reviewed.

Workers at Gordon Meals Service, which didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark from The Put up, “had been accustomed to [Liddell] because of the large quantity of rooster wings she would buy,” court docket data acknowledged.

The varsity district, which incorporates six elementary colleges and a center faculty, 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 keeping with their particular person price range,” based on court docket paperwork. The audit discovered the meals division was lots of of 1000’s of {dollars} over price range.

Then, “upon nearer evaluation, [the business manager] found particular person invoices signed by Liddell for large portions of rooster wings, an merchandise that was by no means served to college students,” prosecutors stated.

A spokesperson for the college district didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. However interim superintendent Lela Bridges advised Law & Crime that the district “can not remark at the moment due to an ongoing investigation” and is “absolutely cooperating with the authorities concerning this matter.”

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

The whereabouts of the 11,000 circumstances of rooster wings stay unclear. The case at Harvey Faculty District 152 shouldn’t be 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 heart in Atlanta had been accused of taking $65,000 worth of chicken wings.

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