In an alarming exposé of unchecked corruption within our education system, a former school administrator stands accused of a brazen embezzlement scheme, underscoring the urgent need for greater accountability and transparency.

The accused has been slapped with felony charges, embezzling $1.5 million worth of chicken wings and other food items over a two-year span. This scandal took place in the quiet suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, where 66-year-old Vera Liddell served as the director of food services for Harvey School 152. Now, Liddell could be facing a grueling thirty-year prison sentence if she is found guilty.

The severity of Liddell’s alleged actions has led to her being charged with Continuing Financial Crimes Enterprise and Class X felony theft—charges typically reserved for those who steal property valued over $1,000,000. Not only does she face the possibility of spending three decades behind bars, but these charges also come with a maximum fine of $25,000 and potential demands for restitution.

Liddell’s tenure with the school district began as a consultant in July 2020, and her LinkedIn profile shows her association with Harvey School District 152 dating back to May 2011. It is between July 2020 and February 2022 that she is accused of embezzling a staggering $1.5 million in taxpayer funds by stealing food items from the very school she worked for.

Kimberly M. Foxx, the State’s Attorney for Cook County, notes in a bond proffer for Liddell that this massive fraud took place at the peak of the COVID pandemic when students were not physically present in schools. “Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up,” she states, pointing out the audacity of Liddell’s alleged scheme.

Liddell, now a notorious figure in the media, has been unreachable for comment. TODAY.com attempted to contact her but to no avail. The defendant is currently represented by the Cook County Public Defender’s office, while Barbara Mason, interim superintendent for Harvey School District 152, told TODAY.com that the district cannot comment due to an ongoing investigation, but they are fully cooperating with authorities.

According to the bond proffer, Liddell’s fraudulent scheme began in July 2020 when she started placing unauthorized food orders using the school district’s account. She allegedly struck a deal with the district’s primary chicken wing vendor, Gordon Food Service, a distributor based in Wyoming, Michigan, that services a large portion of the American Midwest.

The bond proffer states that Liddell made these unauthorized purchases separately from the district’s legitimate orders, tricking Gordon Food Service into believing she was authorized to place the orders, which were subsequently billed to the school district and paid for using district funds.

It was only in January 2022, when a district business manager conducted a routine audit, that the massive discrepancy was discovered. The food service department was already $300,000 over budget halfway through the school year, sparking immediate alarm.

The bond proffer reveals that Liddell was hired as a consultant in 2021 after serving as Director of Food Services, to assist in the transition of the new director. Despite no longer being the director, she remained the sole individual placing food orders for the district. Through her frequent interactions with several Gordon Food Service employees, she was well-known due to the enormous volume of chicken wings she regularly purchased.

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Source: AWM

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