Former Charter School Principal Pleads Guilty to Federal Program Theft
WILMINGTON, Del. – David C. Weiss, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Noel Rodriguez, age 56, formerly of Dover, Del., pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews. Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30, 2018.
According to court records and statements made in open court, over a three-year period beginning in July 2011, while serving as Principal of the Academy of Dover, a charter school in Dover, Del., Rodriguez embezzled $145,480 from the school.
Rodriguez accomplished this embezzlement in a number of ways. First, he charged personal expenses to four unauthorized credit cards he opened in the name of the school. Rodriguez also abused the State of Delaware’s voucher program, by which charter schools are permitted to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement, and the State of Delaware’s procurement card system, by which the State of Delaware issues credit cards to charter school administrators to purchase necessary school supplies. Rodriguez used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as electronics, gardening and camping equipment, automobile costs, a dog house, personal travel, and home improvement items.
During this time, the Academy of Dover received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges. The maximum penalty is ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
Acting U.S. Attorney Weiss said, “Mr. Rodriguez stole from the school he was entrusted to run. He is being held accountable for his betrayal of the public trust, and his case should serve as a warning to others contemplating misappropriating public funds.”
“Mr. Rodriguez knowingly and willfully abused his position of trust to steal education funds that were supposed to be used provide services for the most innocent of victims – school children. That is unacceptable,” said Geoffrey Wood, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Eastern Region. “I’m proud of the work of OIG Special Agents and our law enforcement colleagues for holding Mr. Rodriguez accountable for his fraudulent actions.”
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.