Maryland School Official Swipes Federal Funds, Buys Gadgets

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Rayda Barnes-Thomas faces up to 10 years in prison for using $100,000 in federal funding to purchase videogames, cameras and laptops.

Barnes-Thomas had worked as a “Title I specialist” in the Charles County, Maryland public school system since 2006, a role that put her in charge of distributing more than $2 million in federal funding to the district’s poorest students and schools. Instead, Maryland police claim, Barnes-Thomas embezzled over $100,000, which was spent on “… three Nikon Coolpix cameras, three 32GB iPod Touches, a GPS device, two 32-inch televisions, Madden NFL 11 for the Nintendo Wii and a MacBook,” among other things.

The theft came to light when other officials in the school system noticed that laptops had gone missing. More accurately, that laptops purchased with federal funds under Barnes-Thomas’ name, had gone missing. This spawned a wider investigation in which 200 missing items were linked to Barnes-Thomas’ use of Title I funding.

Eventually police searched her home and a home belonging to her daughter and found a number of the items in questions. A few of the items, police allege, were sold by Barnes-Thomas and her daughter to acquaintances and friends.

Rayda Barnes-Thomas will face a judge for sentencing next month. While it is as yet unclear what her punishment will be, the Charles County school system hopes to see some kind of monetary restitution.

Perhaps the most depressing part of this entire thing is how long Barnes-Thomas was able to continue her embezzlement. According to the Washington Post, she was swiping federal funds right from under everyone’s noses for two years, and the only reason she was ever caught is that she got a bit too greedy and people caught on to the swarm of missing computers she’d bought. With a bit more care Barnes-Thomas could still be living the high life in a house full of the latest tech toys.

What does that say about the sort of oversight applied to how the government doles out these wads of federal funding?

Source: Washington Post
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