Former Railroad Employee Sentenced to Two and a Half Years in Federal Prison for Fraudulently Obtaining Disability Benefits
CHICAGO — An ongoing federal investigation into an alleged fraud scheme at a Chicago elementary school has resulted in charges against two new defendants.
An eleven-count superseding indictment unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago alleges that SARAH JACKSON ABEDELAL carried out a fraud scheme while serving as Principal of Brennemann Elementary School on the North Side of Chicago. The first aspect of the scheme involved overtime fraud, for which Abedelal was initially charged last year. The superseding indictment adds a second aspect to the alleged scheme – procurement fraud – and charges two new defendants: former Brennemann Assistant Principal JENNIFER MCBRIDE, also known as “Jennifer Ellen,” and former Brennemann Business Manager WILLIAM JACKSON. McBride allegedly participated in the overtime aspect of the fraud scheme, while Jackson allegedly participated in both the overtime and procurement aspects.
The superseding indictment charges Abedelal, 58, of Chicago, with one count of wire fraud. McBride, 40, of Northbrook, Ill., is charged with four counts of wire fraud. Jackson, 37, of Chicago, is charged with five counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. Arraignments in U.S. District Court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.
The superseding indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; and Will Fletcher, Inspector General of the Chicago Board of Education, Office of Inspector General. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terry M. Kinney and Patrick Mott.
According to the superseding indictment, the procurement aspect of the fraud scheme was carried out by Abedelal, Jackson, and a sales representative for a company that sold goods to Chicago Public Schools. The trio allegedly submitted or caused to be submitted to CPS false purchase orders and invoices totaling more than $45,000, ostensibly for office and school supplies. In reality, they knew that the false orders and invoices were actually meant to conceal the receipt of iPhones, iPads, and approximately $30,000 in gift cards intended for the personal use of Abedelal, the indictment alleges.
The overtime aspect of the fraud scheme was allegedly carried out by Abedelal and McBride, with assistance from Jackson, two other former employees at the school, and others. The charges allege that Abedelal authorized unearned overtime pay for certain employees and directed them to deliver the proceeds to Abedelal or McBride in the form of cash or gift cards. Abedelal told the employees that the money would be used to fund legitimate school expenses, when, in fact, Abedelal intended to convert the money to her own personal use, the indictment alleges. Abedelal, McBride, Jackson, and others prepared or caused to be prepared fraudulent overtime sheets to conceal the scheme, the indictment states.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Each count in the indictment is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.