Former Buffalo School Official Pleads Guilty To Stealing Funds From City Schools
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Debbie Buckley, 56, of Niagara Falls, NY, pleaded guilty to theft of government funds. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard A. Resnick, who is handling the case, stated that Buckley served as Supervisor of Title I, Office of Federal and State Programs for the Buffalo School District. Title I is a federally funded program that provides assistance to school districts with high numbers of children from low income families. In March 2010, Buckley was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Federal and State Programs.
In June 2009, the defendant met with a representative of the Universal School which moved into the City of Buffalo. During the meeting, Buckley asked for and was provided with blank Universal School letterhead signed by the representative. The defendant indicated the letterhead would be used to include the Universal School with other non-public schools to increase resources available.
A record obtained during the investigation included an undated letter on Universal School letterhead purportedly written by the school representative. The letter, addressed to Buckley, requested an individual to administer the Title I computer assisted program at the Universal School during the 2009-10 school year. The school representative did not write or sign the letter and the Universal School did not have a Title I computer assisted program.
Subsequently, a fraudulent contract was prepared assigning an individual identified as Hassan El Saddique to provide Title I assistance at the Universal School. El Saddique, who is Buckley’s son, never provided such assistance to the Universal School, instead El Saddique worked on a volunteer basis a few hours a week at Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo. Never the less, he submitted weekly invoices based on the fraudulent contract for full time payment to the Buffalo School District for the period of September 8, 2009 through June 30, 2010. Some of these invoices included payment for days school was not even in session.
Buckley changed the approval process by which a contractor was paid for Title I services provided in non-public schools. The defendant eliminated the need for a signature from an official at the non-public school. Buckley did this so that she could sign the fraudulent invoices submitted by her son authorizing the payment of the invoices. The dates of some of these invoices coincide with the period during which Buckley was promoted to Assistant Superintendent.
El Saddique received 18 paychecks from the Buffalo School District totaling $15,120. Of those paychecks, 13 were deposited into two union accounts controlled by Buckley for a total of $10,320 and another check was cashed using one of those accounts.
In February 2015, Hassan El Saddique was indicted by a federal grand jury, also on a charge of theft of government funds. The charge is still pending. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen, and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Assistant Special Agent in Charge Geoff Wood.