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Former School Secretary Charged With Embezzlement

Posted March 27, 2008

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— A former Wake County Public School System employee was charged Thursday with one count of embezzlement in connection with nearly $21,000 missing from the school system.

Kristie Mitchell, 40, of 4352 Pine Springs Court, was a lead secretary at Leesville Road Middle School and was employed by the school system from November 2003 until she resigned June 29, 2007, shortly after officials discovered irregularities during a routine audit, school system spokesman Greg Thomas said.

The audit found money had been taken from the school's Activity Fund and deposit slips had been altered, he said.

"Our auditors discovered what appeared to be some irregularities," Thomas said. "They vigorously investigated them. We acted upon it, and we will be seeking to get the money back."

Mitchell is out of jail on a $10,000 secured bond. She had no comment when she left the jail late Thursday morning.

Board of Education member Lori Millberg said Mitchell found a way to circumvent accounting software designed to prevent fraud and took small amounts of money over a period of time, which made it hard to trace.

"In this case, there was software that was supposed to be fool-proof that we bought, and she found a way around it," Millberg said.

In 2005 and 2006, seven people – including four former employees – were convicted in connection with a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving the school system's transportation department. At least $4 million was diverted from automotive parts spending and spent on high-priced luxury items for themselves.

As a result, school board members have said the school system has become much more aggressive in their audits. Millberg said this latest case is evidence the program is working.

"I think, if you run a business as big as ours and you never catch any fraud, that's not a very good sign," she said. "You have to catch some fraud to know your fraud system is working."

Millberg said Mitchell's arrest should serve as a warning to others.

"They need to know that we will catch it," she said. "It may take time. Even though you've gotten away with it for a short period of time, (it) does not mean you're home-free."

"Eventually, it will turn up, because eventually, we audit every school," she said.

70 Comments

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  • Alicat Mar 28, 2008

    no conscience at all.. Very sad. Take what isn't yours. Shame on her

  • TheDecider Mar 27, 2008

    So the bus garage maintenance workers made off with hundreds of thousands, a simple secretary made off with $21,000.

    What kind of financial controls do they have? How many millions are being stolen at the same time they are asking for higher taxes?

    This system is compltetely disfunctional on many layers/dimensions. I am praying that the system will be broken up so local citizens can hold local school boards accountable.

    The idea that consolidation allows greater savings and diversity is hogwash - it leads to easier coverup of incompetance and corruption.

  • st8gir1 Mar 27, 2008

    I agree with you common sense..... I actually know someone who interviewed her for a job that would have had her handling other peoples money!!! They are pretty glad they didn't hire her now!! How someone can act so thoughtlessly is beyond me. I would love to ask her now if it was really worth it.... the pain she has put her family through, and the fact that it will be hard for her to get a job now, all for 20K....where was her head?

  • OSX Mar 27, 2008

    Thieves at the bottom and thieves at the top. I wonder where all the money is going.

  • i_hate_suvs Mar 27, 2008

    Maybe the school system should get some restitution from the software company that made the auditing software she bypassed. It doesn't sound like very good software if a non technical secretary could fabricate a work around. The person purchasing the software for the school system also needs to answer as to what criteria he/she used to select this stuff. Lastly, the school system is hopelessly corrupt. From the crooks in the transportation department to this the whole system needs an overhaul. How much more stuff like this exists out there???? Clean up the fraud!

  • common_sense_plz Mar 27, 2008

    now this woman is not smart at all. After all the embezzlement that has gone on, did she not think that the school system was being watched closely. I hope that they make her pay back every dime and then some. I guess that money collected now will just have to be taken and accounted for by 2 or more individuals, and given to the principal with reciepts being kept by every teacher and administrator and held until the end of the year, to be added up and accounted for. If the woman is employed now, I wonder if where she works will double check their accounts.

  • Thinker Mar 27, 2008

    It's too bad we can't use public humiliation anymore like in medieval times. It would be nice to have her sit on a platform in downtown Raleigh and have rotten tomatoes thrown at her and let her hear what we have to say to her. It's not very PC....

  • craziecrafter Mar 27, 2008

    She sure was stupid to think that she would actually get away with it. She should of known that eventually it would of caught up with her. When are people going to realize crime doesn't pay.

  • Thinker Mar 27, 2008

    I'm sure it is very difficult for the system to catch these people, especially since there are so many employees. But these crooks in the school system are coming out right and left - just unbelievable. The answer isn't in better auditing, which would be more reactive. It seems the answer probably lies in the beginning of the process, such as much tighter control of the actual money and the access of fewer people to it. Also, maybe each school should have an end-of-week reconciliation of all $ coming in and going out and who did what with it. That way, thieves would be caught much quicker and migh think twice before embezzling if they knew there would be a weekly mini-audit. Of course, then we need to trust the weekly auditor....It sounds like a pain, but once it was implemented it probably wouldn't be horrendous. And it would save the schools and taxpayers....

  • whatelseisnew Mar 27, 2008

    Garnerwolf1

    One slight suggested correction to your post. Tax cheaters are not stealing from the government - they are stealing from other taxpayers.

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