Federal agents arrested a Texas public school’s former chief financial officer after being accused of embezzling $600,000 of the district’s funds with the use of armored trucks.
John Parker, U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Texas, announced Tuesday that Carolyn Foster, former CFO in the Grand Prairie Independent School District (GPISD), was taken into custody by the U.S. Secret Service. They arrested Foster at her current workplace, the International Leadership of Texas charter school district office in Richardson, where she is finance director.
Monday, Foster, 61, made her first appearance in Dallas federal court following her indictment on one count of federal program theft for allegedly absconding $600,000 in taxpayer funds that disappeared from GPISD’s bank account over a year ago. Foster pleaded not guilty and was released on bond. KDFW 4 reported she has no prior criminal history.
Foster joined GPISD in 2009 as the finance director and was promoted to CFO in 2012, earning nearly $150,000 annually. However, after her promotion, Foster allegedly misused her newfound authority to make financial procedure changes and she did so without notifying appropriate colleagues. This gave her the ability to access school district bank funds, allegedly.
According to the school district, Foster would order cash to be withdrawn from GPISD’s bank accounts and be delivered by armored trucks to the school district’s administration offices where she told finance department employees the money was for teacher cash awards to fund school supplies and other needs like lawsuit settlements. School district officials said no such lawsuits existed.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted these thefts occurred from October 2014 to July 2015. Authorities suspect Foster fraudulently siphoned off over half a million dollars. Said GPISD Superintendent Susan Simpson Hull: “If these allegations are true, we urge that Carolyn Foster be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Hull expressed her dismay in a lengthy statement Tuesday, calling Foster’s actions “a reprehensible act of selfishness and greed.”
She also said: “That someone serving in a position of authority of an organization whose job is to educate and nurture the children of our GPISD community would violate that sacred trust is unconscionable.”
At the time of Foster’s employ, district finance department accountants questioned her over how she used the money she had delivered to the district’s administration building. Foster assured them that she took responsibility for managing funds. She resigned from GPISD on August 31, 2015. The next day, the same finance department accountants voiced their concerns to Finance Director Ray Wilks, who notified district leadership. After a brief investigation to verify the information these staffers shared, Wilks contacted Grand Prairie police.
“All of us at GPISD deeply regret this apparent violation of the public trust by this former official. We thank our community for their strong and ongoing support of our schools and our children, and we will work hard every day to continue to earn that support,” said Hull.
Since then, the district revamped their procedures. No longer can any one person have single authority to access money. Said Hull: “We have developed new operating procedures for handling any cash in the district, with multiple backups and redundancies to make sure that never again can a single person, even a high-ranking executive, on his or her own authority, gain access to money that belongs to our schools.”
Hull said the district plans to work with authorities to retrieve every penny that was allegedly stolen, and work to ensure such a “despicable act” never happens again.
If convicted, Foster faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.