School treasurers used their positions to siphon money from the districts.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office recently announced that Quinn Keith Smith, 43, of Grosse Pointe Woods faces charges of embezzlement after taking more than $91,000 from an elementary school parent-teacher organization. Smith served as treasurer of the Monteith School Parent Teacher Organization in Grosse Pointe Woods from 2017 to 2020, according to Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
“An audit of the organization’s finances revealed the occurrence of unauthorized activity on the account,” Worthy said of the embezzlement case. “It is alleged that the defendant accessed the PTO account without authorization and embezzled over $91,000.00 in funds over two and a half years.”
Smith’s attorney, David Draper, commented, “It’s so early we have not yet seen the discovery. We expect there to be a lot of financial discovery and we can’t comment until we know more.”
In a separate case, Worthy said Smith is charged with embezzling more than $1,000 from a fund set up urging voters to approve a school millage. He was the treasurer of this committee as well and the funds went missing between October 2019 and January 2020. Records show that Smith also served for a time on the board of the Grosse Pointe Library Foundation, although it is unclear whether this will be relevant to actions against him.
The embezzlement charges are considered a felony crime punishable up to fifteen years in prison. Fines could be as much as $25,000. The smaller case also is a felony with a maximum penalty of a decade behind bars with fines as high as $10,000.
In related news, a former Kentucky school finance director also accused of stealing more than $1.6 million from a school district over the course of a decade has pleaded guilty to federal charges. The U.S. Justice Department announced late last month that Lesley Wade pleaded guilty to “concealing money laundering and filing a fraudulent tax return.”
Similar to the plot of the movie Bad Education, Wade “diverted funds from Franklin County Schools to herself through checks, and channeled money from the school district into accounts at a Frankfort church where she was a treasurer,” according to the Justice Department’s release.
Wade was a long-time employee of the Franklin County Board of Education (FCBOE) and served as FCBOE’s Financial Director. She ultimately admitted that, starting in February 2011 and continuing through about June 25, 2019, she “wrote unauthorized checks of FCBOE money to herself, then falsified the necessary FCBOE records and invoices to cover up her crimes.”
Wade also served as Treasurer of Leestown Gospel Church in Frankfort, where she managed the finances with little oversight. She used this position, admittedly, to “launder money she had stolen from the FCBOE, using the Church’s account before writing checks to herself, attempting to avoid detection and making the checks appear legitimate.”
The FCBOE lost a total of $1,624,593 due to Wade’s actions. Over the course of the investigation, she also admitted to filing false individual income tax returns, for the years 2011-2018. The total amount of tax loss was $315,677.
Wade is scheduled to be sentenced in September. She could face more than two decades in federal prison and fines up to $500,000 for money laundering. For the tax charge, she faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.