Public School Staff Defrauded System Hundreds Of Thousand Of Dollars

Several school administrators are said to be involved in a massive CPS fraud scheme that defrauded the school system out of money.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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CPS fraud

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have been rife with issues over the years. Because of extensive school closures during the COVID pandemic, schools have fallen further behind in academic achievement, and mental health is a major concern for students as well. On top of that, the system now faces a massive, nearly decade-long CPS fraud case involving multiple employees in the district involving some school leaders. 

The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported on this extensive CPS fraud case, after the former principal of an elementary school on the North side of the major city finally admitted her role in the case. Sarah Jackson Abedelal, who was the head of Brennemann Elementary is just one of six people charged for scamming the school district out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was made possible to the alleged criminals through bogus overtime pay claims and fake orders for supplies.

Along with the school principal, a former school business manager, William Jackson, and the at-the-time assistant principal, Jennifer McBride, were also said to be in on the CPS fraud scheme. But that’s not all, as a business clerk at the Caldwell Math and Science Academy, Debra Bannack, and even a CPS vendor, Anthony Rasmussen, all are accused of aiding in the felony as well. The community is still reeling not only over the wrongdoing on the part of school leaders but at how many people abetted in the crime. 

Pleading guilty last Thursday to wire fraud, the former school principal will likely face a prison sentence of three to five years. Her low term is in part due to her cooperation with the federal investigation, which may have resulted in the Feds finding and prosecuting more involved in the CPS fraud case. Admitting that she asked teachers to submit fake overtime, the ex-principal sat in the courtroom teary-eyed when giving her testimony last week. 

So how exactly was this comprehensive CPS fraud case pulled off? There isn’t one clear instance, but many ways that the group defrauded the school system. Those involved are said to have asked school staff to claim overtime pay for hours they never worked. In turn, the employees were asked to hand that extra pay back to the Principal. Abedelal told the employees that the funds were being used to pay for school expenses and a summer school program, run by the principal and administrators.

As imaginable, the principal, and those involved in the CPS fraud, did not use the money for the purposes they alleged. Instead, court reports show that the former principal pocketed the money herself. It made no note of whether or not those involved benefited, but given the circumstances, they must have gotten a portion of the funds as well. What’s more, the group used the assistant principal’s school ID to enter hours worked in the phony summer school program to collect more funds, accumulating to 40 hours a week in the summer. 

CPS fraud

In a separate CPS fraud case, the group of administrators would enter fake purchase records for office supplies, and pocket the funds for them. Other than Abadelal, the others involved have all plead not guilty to the scheme. Their trials will be held at a later date. At this time, it is unknown when, and how, if those found guilty will have to pay the public school system back for the thousands upon thousands of dollars stolen from taxpayers.