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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Former Buffalo School Official Sentenced For Stealing Funds From City Schools

CONTACT:      Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX:            (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Debbie Buckley, 56, of Niagara Falls, NY, who was convicted of theft of government funds, was sentenced to three years probation by Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. The defendant also paid restitution totaling $15,120.00 prior to sentencing.   

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard A. Resnick, who handled 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 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.
Subsequent investigation revealed that the Universal School letterhead was used to prepare a fraudulent letter 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 letter was not written by the school representative, and, in fact, 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 a different school, Bishop Timon High School. Nevertheless, Buckley’s son submitted to the Buffalo School District for the period of September 8, 2009, through June 30, 2010, weekly invoices seeking full-time payment based on the fraudulent contract. Some of these invoices included payment for days on which 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.
Hassan El Saddique was convicted of theft of money in control and possession of a bank, sentenced to one year supervised release and ordered to pay $15,120.00 in restitution.
Today’s sentencing 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.   

Updated December 21, 2016