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Texas School Administrator Must Pay Back Embezzled $500,000

A Texas school district administrator, who pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges, must pay back $500,000 she embezzled. This is part of a sentence where she will also serve 40 months in federal prison for falsifying standardized test scores.

On Wednesday, June 8, U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield ordered Patricia Adams Lambert to repay $500,000 she siphoned from a variety of CMMHS sources between 2007-12 — the booster club, a student activities account, college credit courses, and on-campus snack concessions. Lambert, 62, worked for the Beaumont Independent School District as an assistant superintendent and previously served as principal at the district’s Central Medical Magnet High School (CMMHS).

A federal grand jury originally indicted Lambert on four counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors claimed she embezzled more than $750,000 in funds and goods from the students, parents, and the school district while she was CMMHS principal, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.

The federal government agreed to drop the three other fraud charges in exchange for her guilty plea on one fraud count. She pleaded guilty late in December 2015  to the single count of fraud on programs receiving federal funds and one count of conspiracy to submit false statements concerning standardized test scores.

Then, in February 2016, prosecutors determined she only stole $500,000 from Beaumont ISD. The evidence showed Lambert diverted school district dollars for shopping sprees at Dillard’s department store, vacations to the Bahamas, a home remodel, and the purchase of a silver Lincoln MKX.

Lambert was ordered to pay 25 percent of her monthly retirement income to repay the $500,000 debt as part of the plea agreement. The sentencing memorandum shows 25 percent was “the maximum amount allowed by law from those two sources of income to her restitution judgment.” The document identified Lambert currently receives $4,018 a month from two state-run teacher pensions — $2,379 from the Louisiana teacher retirement system and $1,639 from the Texas system. Based on these figures, Lambert would pay about $1,005 a month to Beaumont ISD. It would take her over 41 years to repay the debt — without any interest.

Lambert must report and pay for any of the outstanding debt through inheritances, personal injury or divorce settlements, gifts, tax refunds, bonuses, lawsuit awards and even gambling and lottery winnings, or even, found money, after her prison release. The deal capped her incarceration time at 40 months, avoiding a 15-year maximum federal prison sentence she faced on the two charges, the Enterprise added.

Heartfield sentenced her to the 40 months for falsifying test scores on the state’s annually administered standardized exam. That test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), preceded the current State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams. Texas, like other states, was mandated to implement year-end testing under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to receive federal funding.

Beaumont ISD hired Lambert in June 2002. By August, they promoted her to assistant principal at Vincent Middle School. Two years later, the district bumped her up to principal status at French Middle School, followed by CMMHS in 2006. As principal, her responsibilities included managing personnel; ensuring proper reporting of grades, testing, and attendance to Beaumont ISD administration; and financial oversight for certain aspects of the campus. The district again promoted Lambert in May 2012 — to assistant superintendent.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern Division of Texas, between 2007-12, as CMMHS principal, Lambert “created a culture” among faculty and staff “where cheating on standardized tests was accepted,” noting she falsified “Oaths of Test Security and Test Confidentiality” principals and test administrators had to sign. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) required that teachers abide by these oaths. Test results were provided to the U.S. Department of Education.

However, Lambert “either directly or indirectly” encouraged teachers and staff to manipulate students’ test scores or “had knowledge that cheating occurred,” the U.S. Attorney’s release stated. Lambert signed and submitted the oaths, which falsely claimed the test requirements were met.

During her sentencing, Lambert broke down and cried. She said: “The past four years have been unbelievably shameful and hurtful.” She also stated: “The saddest part…my mother and children are here to witness this,” Beaumont’s KBMT 12 reported. The U.S. Marshals Service took Lambert into custody immediately after the hearing.

Lambert’s husband, Howard, left the federal courthouse cursing at news media who tried to interview him, the Beaumont TV news outlet tweeted.

Former Beaumont ISD math supervisor Victoria Gauthier Steward, 31, was also sentenced on Wednesday. The Louisiana native worked under Lambert when Lambert was principal at CMMHS. Steward pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to make false statements in connection with her role in falsifying standardized test scores. She was sentenced to three years of federal probation and 300 hours of community service, the Enterprise also reported.

Two other Beaumont ISD schools are under federal investigation for similar cheating scandal allegations but, according to the Beaumont newspaper, U.S. Attorney John M. Bales did not name the campuses or other individuals suspected.

In 2014, Breitbart Texas covered an unstable Beaumont ISD reeling from a $4 million employee embezzlement scandal. It ended with the indictments of its former finance director, Devin McCraney, and comptroller, Shakira Baksh Allison, on federal charges, 19 counts including conspiracy and 18 counts, of fraud.

Other district governance problems led to a TEA investigative financial report which recommended ousting the existing school board in an attempt to stabilize the ailing district. That July, the agency took over Beaumont ISD, appointing a temporary board of managers. They can remain in place for up to two years before the school district may install a school board through an election.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.

Patricia Lambert-Sentencing Memo and Restitution

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