GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - The former chief financial officer for the Grand Prairie Independent School District is charged with stealing more than $600,000 from the district.
The money had been allocated for teachers, school supplies and other campus needs.
Prosecutors said 61-year-old Carolyn Foster was indicted on a charge of federal program theft. She allegedly took the money between October 2014 and July of last year.
Foster has absolutely no criminal history. She pleaded not guilty to the charge she is facing in her first appearance before a federal magistrate
But the Grand Prairie ISD Superintendent says she abused her authority and betrayed the public’s trust.
“Carolyn Foster was the CFO, and she simply abused her power,” said Superintendent Dr. Susan Hull. “She was dishonest with her staff, she manipulated procedures and she stole money.”
A district statement said Foster abused her authority to gain access to cash held in a vault in the administration building for awards to teachers and other needs.
Over a period of nearly a year, the district said she ordered the money withdrawn from district bank accounts and delivered by armored truck to the district offices. Foster then allegedly told finance department employees the money was for special cash awards for teachers for school supplies and for settlements in lawsuits. There were no such lawsuits that needed cash settlements.
Attorney Barry Sorrels, who is not connected to the case, says checks and balances should have been in place.
‘Federal law enforcement authorities treat embezzlement of tax payers’ dollars and theft of tax payers’ dollars seriously,” Sorrels said. “She did have autonomy, but we did have processes and procedures in place that she manipulated, that she circumvented. She abused the position that she had, and she abused the trust that her staff had in her.”
Dr. Hull says because of the incident, more safeguards have been put in place.
“We have created a process that makes it virtually impossible for anyone, even a high ranking executive, even me, to be able to access cash without the express written consent of at least two others,” the superintended explained.
Foster came to the district in 2009 as Finance Director and promoted to CFO in 2012. Her salary was nearly $150,000 a year.
“We're absolutely thrilled there’s been an arrest and thrilled there’s been an indictment,” said Dr. Hull.
Foster was arrested at the International Leadership of Texas office in Richardson, where she was working by contract for the charter school district with schools across North Texas and Houston.
The district says Foster’s contract was terminated immediately. And while they don't believe she had direct access to funds in her finance position with them, they are back checking behind her.
If convicted, Foster faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.