BISD Employee Sentenced to Federal Prison for Stealing More Than $300,000 in Cafeteria Funds
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – An accounting clerk in the Food and Nutrition Services Division of the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) has been ordered to prison for stealing cash proceeds from concessions sales at four schools for nearly six years, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Leticia Arreola, 39, of Los Fresnos, entered a guilty plea Wednesday, June 1, 2016.
Today, U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera followed the government’s recommendation and ordered Arreola to serve a 24-month prison sentence. She was further ordered to pay $332,571.41 in restitution. In handing down the sentence, Judge Olvera indicated that Arreola abused a position of public trust in embezzling school funds. In denying Arreola’s request for a reduced sentence, Judge Olvera noted that public corruption is a matter of great concern and believed her sentence needed to reflect that concern. Arreola must also serve three years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.
From at least 2010 until January 2016, Arreola used her position to embezzle approximately $332,571.46. The embezzled money represented cash proceeds from the concessions sales at Faulk Elementary, Brownsville Early College High School (BECHS), Brownsville Learning Academy (BLA) and the Brownsville Academic Center (BAC).
BISD utilizes substantial federal funding each year to help provide cafeteria lunches for its’ students. This funding is well in excess of $10,000 yearly. Besides providing cafeteria lunches, BISD also receives cash payments from students for concession style food, such as ice cream and cookies.
Schools that perform concession services are required to send their cash proceeds to the BISD affiliated bank for proper accounting and deposit. The cash deposits are supposed to be placed in a deposit bag and then delivered on a daily or weekly basis via armored car to the BISD affiliated bank. At times, however, schools would miss their scheduled time to provide the deposits to the armored car. In those instances, the deposit bags were delivered to Arreola who would then steal the money for her own purposes.
Eventually, Arreola was able to arrange for cash deposits from Faulk, BECHS, BLA and the BAC to be delivered directly to her. When money came in from these schools, she would simply take the money out of the deposit bags and place them in her purse until she left at the end of her work-day. Ultimately, Arreola was asked to provide documentation about the receipt of money from these schools over time and she was unable to do so.
A review of the Arreola’s bank records from 2010 to 2016 demonstrated the extent of the embezzling scheme. While her legitimate salary with BISD was approximately $20,000 annually, records reflect that she embezzled more than $48,000 in 2010, $46,538 in 2011, $35,561 in 2012, more than $63,000 in both 2013 and 2014, another $71,532 in 2015 and a final $4,712 in 2016.
Arreola would spend proceeds from the $332,571.46 she stole on living expenses, vacations, entertainment and shopping.
Arreola was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on Nov. 10, 2016.
The BISD Police Department and the FBI investigated with assistance from the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office and cooperation of BISD. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young and Israel Cano III prosecuted the case.