As if schools weren’t having a big enough problem right now with some of their staff, there are new reports of at least one (now former) administrator who took greedy practices to a whole new level. And for her crimes, she’s going to be in prison for a little while. According to Fox News, Bridget Coates of Falls Church, VA was sentenced to more than two years in jail for embezzling more than $175,000 in student funds meant to go to activities and other school-related services. It appears to be a brazen move by Coates who used the funds to finance a wealthy lifestyle.
The final charge against Coates was for wire fraud and the crimes took place during her tenure as principal of St. Thomas More Catholic School in Washington, DC between 2012 and 2018. It was during this time that Coates had access to the funds available for the Home School Association initiative. These student funds were apparently set aside for a variety of student-related activities but ultimately managed by a group that existed outside of the Catholic school. But Coates, as principal, was given the authority to access the funds to make purchases for the students and the group. Instead, she used this power to cut herself checks for other items.
Over this period of time, according to the court filings and the case (via Fox News), Coates wrote 66 checks in all which amounted to the $175K. Once the money was in her account she went on to spend the student funds on a variety of luxury goods and even used the stolen money to apply for a mortgage. The latter carries with it considerably stiff penalties and she was sentenced on a count of wire fraud. The $175K will be the operative number too because that is the amount she not only owes the Archdiocese of Washington but also as a fine as part of the sentencing. That will total $350,000 she will own on top of the 30 months in prison.
According to The Washington Post, among the ways Coates embezzled the school money were that she used $14K to qualify for the aforementioned mortgage and spent roughly $19K on goods from Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors. There was another $85K that she paid to herself over that time though there was some contention that those student funds might have actually gone to the students. Prosecutors apparently did not count that number against her sentencing.
During her time with the school, Coates had been a decorated educator, even winning a teacher of the year award in 2005. She penned a letter to the judge trying to explain her actions saying she had suffered from depression, anxiety, and other mental issues which were at the root of her actions. She mentioned an obsession with wealth-related appearances too which caused her to purchase designer brands with the student funds. This did little to reduce the sentencing though and she is now slated to spend more than two years in prison and then an unsupervised release following that time.