The case of a $100,000 embezzled from Waynesville School District's lunch accounts has come to a close.
Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Hillman, responding to a request from the Daily Guide, issued a press release Wednesday evening concerning the prosecution of Deanna House for her role in the embezzlement of more than $100,000 from the Waynesville School District.
House pleaded guilty to one count of Receiving Stolen Property, a Class C felony, on December 12, 2016 and was sentenced to seven years, with a suspended sentence, in the Missouri Department of Corrections, according to the press release.
Senior Circuit Judge John Wiggins placed her on five years probation and ordered her to pay $40,283 in restitution to the Waynesville School District, "which was the amount of loss not covered by insurance and costs of the investigation to the District," according to Hillman's release.
The plea entered by House was part of a negotiated plea agreement in which the state agreed to not seek the "higher charge" of Class B felony Receiving Stolen Property.
"The plea was done as an “open plea,” wherein the parties agreed that Judge Wiggins was free to sentence the defendant to any lawful sentence as though the case went to trial and she had been found guilty. The Pulaski County Prosecutor’s Office had recommended a sentence of seven years incarceration in the Department of Corrections with jurisdiction retained under Section 559.115 RSMo, the general shock program, and an order of restitution if granted probation," Hillman said in his release.
Waynesville School District released a statement Thursday afternoon concerning the embezzlement and steps the district has taken to prevent theft in the future.
In the statement, Waynesville School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Henry is quoted as saying, "I want to thank Sheriff Ron Long, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Pulaski County Prosecutors Office for their investigation and efforts in handling this case."
The District released a statement in February of 2016 reporting the embezzlement, as well as reporting it to the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Ron Long requested assistance from the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control, who investigated the case.
Hillman reported in his press release that the case was turned over to his office for prosecution in November of 2016 and the case was prosecuted by Hillman and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ken Clayton.
“I want to thank the officials of the Waynesville R-VI School District for their cooperation and assistance throughout this entire process. Their diligence uncovered this loss and their quick action prevented it from continuing and helped to mitigate the loss to the District. The School District, its administrators, and the School Board were fully cooperative throughout the entire investigation and prosecution of this case and assisted my office and the Highway Patrol. I also wish to wish to thank the investigators from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control for their hard work and attention to detail in their extensive investigation which led to this successful prosecution,” Hillman said in his press release.
The school district said in its statement that families "can rest assured that individual student lunch accounts were properly credited with their deposits; however, when compared, the students’ online deposits and the bank receipts did not balance."
"In addition to contacting police officials, the district immediately volunteered and requested an internal audit be conducted by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office," the statement from the district said.
The State Auditor's Office made recommendations to the district for best practices, when it came to handling accounts, cash, etc. and the district said it has implemented those recommendations.
“We have implemented every single recommendation so that we have the best cash handling practices in place,” Henry is quoted as saying in the school's statement. “I want to assure you that the education of the district’s students remains our first and most important priority. We ask for the support of the community in helping us make that goal a reality.”
Among the recommendations by the State Auditor's office, according to Thursday's statement by the district, are practices such as:
receiving, recording, depositing and transmitting monies be segregated so that the same staff member does not do it all
more specific policies and procedures be put in place
the district use pre-numbered receipt slips so all funds are accounted for
petty cash be handled on an imprest basis, which means a fixed amount is allotted for petty cash and the funds are replenished when receipts warrant the replacement
tickets be issued to athletic events
students use effective recordkeeping and internal controls at school stores
The district reports that a second audit will be performed in April "as part of the ongoing periodic checks to ensure the best practices remain in effect."
"The district also launched a new school lunch accounting system to help track and process the 1.1 million meals the district serves annually," The district's statement said.