NEWS Prosecutors say Illinois school workers embezzled $1.5 million — to buy chicken wings

Prosecutors say Illinois school workers embezzled $1.5 million — to buy chicken wings


Prosecutors said the first sign of trouble in an Illinois school district came when a routine audit found the midyear annual food budget exceeded by $300,000. Then, a review uncovered invoices for thousands of chicken wings — items the school had never provided to students, according to court documents.

The bones in the Super Bowl staple are not suitable for children, so they are not on the menu at Harvey School District 152 in South Chicago. But records show the school ordered 11,000 boxes of wings over a 19-month period, according to court documents.

The findings sparked an investigation by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office, which claimed the chicken wings were at the center of an embezzlement scheme that cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million, according to court records.

Alleged $500 Million Ponzi Scheme Looted Mormons. It ends with a gunshot from the FBI.

Vera Liddell, the district’s former food service supervisor, was charged with two felony counts: continuing financial crimes and theft in excess of $1 million. Liddell, 66, was arrested Thursday but released after posting 10 percent of his $150,000 bond, officials with the county attorney’s office and jail said.

The public defender’s office, which represents Liddell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said the fraud began in July 2020, when the pandemic shut down widespread classrooms and brought daily life to a standstill. While about 2,200 students in the Harvey School District are learning remotely, the Harvey School District still has meals ready to go, records show.

The Super Bowl is here. We’re running out of chicken wings.

Liddell began placing “hundreds of unauthorized food orders, primarily chicken wings,” according to court documents.

The chicken wing order, which is said to run until February 2022, was placed with Gordon Food Service, a Michigan-based distribution company that serves as the school district’s primary food supplier. According to investigators, Liddell regularly contacted company employees who believed the orders were authorized and would then bill the school district for the items.

When the order was ready, Liddell would go to the food company’s factory to pick it up, it said. Boxes of the wings would then be loaded into a van belonging to the school district, according to surveillance video reviewed by investigators.

Employees at Gordon Food Services did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment, “They are familiar with the [Liddell] Because she would buy a lot of chicken wings,” court records said.

The district, which includes six elementary schools and one middle school, paid for all poultry invoices — until January 2022, when the district’s operations manager is completing a midyear audit to ensure each department’s spending “is in line with their personal budget,” according to court documents. Audit finds food department hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget.

Then, “after careful scrutiny, [the business manager] “Liddell’s personal invoices were found for a large number of chicken wings that were never provided to the students,” prosecutors said.

A spokesman for the school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But interim superintendent Lela Bridges told Law & Crime the district was “unable to comment at this time due to the ongoing investigation” and was “cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter”.

America may have had enough of chicken wings

Liddell, who has not yet entered a plea, is scheduled to return to court on February 22.

The whereabouts of 11,000 boxes of chicken wings remain unclear. The Harvey School District 152 case is not the first alleged crime involving wings.

In 2015, a father and son from Syracuse, New York, were accused of stealing $41,000 worth of chicken wings from the restaurant where they worked—posting the bills on their workplace and reselling the poultry. In 2013, two workers at a frozen food distribution center in Atlanta were accused of taking $65,000 worth of chicken wings.

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