DOVER, Del. - A former charter school principal is facing up to 10 years in prison for his role in stealing over $145,000 from the Dover school during a three year period.
The United States Department of Justice for the District of Delaware says on Monday, 56-year-old Noel Rodriguez, of Dover, pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews. The charge stems from multiple incidents over a three year period beginning in July 2011. During that time, Rodriguez embezzled $145,480 as Principal of the Academy of Dover, a charter school, in Dover.
Rodriguez stole the money from the school by opening four unauthorized credit cards in the name of the school and then charging personal expenses to those cards. The Ex-Principal also misused the State's voucher program and the State's procurement card system. Charter schools are apparently required to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement through the voucher program. Through the procurement card system, the state issues credit cards to charter school administrators to make necessary school supplies purchases.
The 56-year-old school administrator apparently used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as electronics, gardening and camping equipment, automobile costs, a dog house, personal travel, and home improvement items.
Acting U.S. Attorney David Weiss says, "Mr. Rodriguez stole from the school he was entrusted to run. He is being held accountable for his betrayal of the public trust, and his case should serve as a warning to others contemplating misappropriating public funds."
Officials report that during this time, the Academy of Dover received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges. The maximum penalty is ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
"Mr. Rodriguez knowingly and willfully abused his position of trust to steal education funds that were supposed to be used provide services for the most innocent of victims – school children. That is unacceptable. I'm proud of the work of OIG Special Agents and our law enforcement colleagues for holding Mr. Rodriguez accountable for his fraudulent actions," says said Geoffrey Wood, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General's Eastern Region.
This case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General's Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case.
Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30, 2018.
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