Former school official accused of embezzling $1.5 million worth of chicken wings
A former official in a school district in the Chicago suburb of Harvey is accused in a bizarre scheme involving more than $1 million worth of stolen chicken wings, CBS Chicago reports.
Vera Liddell is the former director of food services at Harvey School District 152.
The Cook County State's Attorney's office alleges that Liddell launched an embezzlement scheme that resulted in the theft of wings that cost more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money.
The alleged scheme began during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were closed on state order and replaced by virtual learning. Despite the fact that children were learning remotely, the school district was still providing meals for pickup, according to the State's Attorney's office.
From July 2020 until February 2022, Liddell placed hundreds of unauthorized orders for food items – including 11,000 cases of chicken wings for which the district was billed more than $1.5 million – through school district vendor Gordon Food Service, prosecutors said.
The purchases were made separately from the legitimate orders made by the school district, prosecutors said.
Gordon Food Service believed all the purchases were authorized and billed the district for everything, prosecutors said. The district paid the full bills – including the ones for the unauthorized purchases.
But in January 2022, the district business manager conducted a routine mid-year audit and discovered the food service department was more than $300,000 over its annual budget with the school year only about half over, prosecutors said.
A closer review uncovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for absurd quantities of chicken wings, prosecutors said.
Surveillance video showed that Liddell showed up at Gordon Food Service to pick up the food orders and would leave with them in a district cargo van. But the food was never brought to the school or the students, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said it wasn't clear what she did with the chicken wings.
The school district doesn't even serve chicken wings to students because they contain bones, prosecutors said.
District 152 Interim Supt. Lela Bridges issued a statement late Monday saying, "The district cannot comment at this time because of an ongoing investigation. However, we are fully cooperating with the authorities regarding this matter."
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