Former School Principal Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Embezzling $175,000 Meant for Student Activities and Services
Scheme Ran From 2012 to 2017
WASHINGTON – A former school principal was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for stealing at least $175,000 from an association that raises funds from parent contributions and fundraisers to provide school-related services and activities to students. She used the money for personal purposes, including to qualify for a home mortgage loan.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Matthew R. Stohler, Special Agent in Charge, Washington Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, and Robert J. Contee III, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Bridget Coates, 49, of Falls Church, Va., was the principal of St. Thomas More Catholic School in Southeast Washington at the time her criminal activity began, in 2012, until she resigned in 2018. She pleaded guilty on April 4, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to a charge of wire fraud. She was sentenced by the Honorable Dabney L. Friedrich. Following her prison term, Coates must complete three years of supervised release. She also must pay $175,000 in restitution to the Archdiocese of Washington and an identical amount in a forfeiture money judgment.
According to court documents, from June 2012 through December 2017, Coates devised a scheme to steal from the school’s Home School Association, an organization affiliated with the school that supported student services and activities. As the school principal, Coates had access to the Home School Association’s checks and could use her discretion to pay expenditures for only school-related purposes. Coates, however, betrayed the trust and authority placed in her and engaged in a pattern of purchasing personal goods and services with the funds. Over the time period, she wrote approximately 66 unauthorized checks and deposited at least $175,000 into her personal bank account. Among other things, she used the funds to purchase designer fashion from luxury brands and to help her qualify for a home-mortgage loan.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Graves, Special Agent in Charge Stohler, and Chief Contee commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. They also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including former Paralegal Specialist Chad Byron, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey Nestler and Marco Crocetti, who investigated and prosecuted the matter.