Rialto accused lunch money embezzler charged [San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.]
(San Bernardino County Sun (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 08--RIALTO -- A former Rialto Unified accountant has been charged with the suspected embezzling of $1.8 million in funds from the district over the past eight years.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office filed felony charges against Judith Oakes, 49, late Tuesday afternoon. Oakes is charged with eight counts of embezzlement by a public or private officer and eight counts of a public officer crime. If convicted of all charges, she faces up to 11 years in state prison. She will be arraigned in Fontana Superior Court on Thursday, according to district attorney's spokesman Christopher Lee.
Oakes was arrested Aug. 7 after twice being caught on camera putting money into her bra, according to a Rialto Police Department search warrant. At the time of her Aug. 7 arrest, she had a large quantity of cash on her person, and more was found at her San Bernardino home later. She resigned from the district the next day.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's investigation is one of at least five total: The San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and California Department of Education are both conducting investigations into Oakes' alleged crimes. The Rialto Unified school board also hired a private investigation firm, Rancho Cucamonga-based Stewart Investigations Services, to do an independent audit of the Nutrition Services department. The Rialto Police Department turned their case over to the district attorney's office on Monday.
"It's unfortunate when people make poor choices," board president Joe Ayala said Tuesday afternoon. "I feel bad for her family and all those who were hurt by her actions."
At Oakes' home on Cold Mountain Way in San Bernardino Tuesday afternoon, her sons declined to comment on the case.
On Sept. 25, investigator Jeff Stewart told the board that Oakes may have embezzled $1.8 million over the last eight years and more than $3.1 million over 14 years.
If true, that works out with Oakes stealing an average of $221,438 a year -- or $4,258 a week -- almost triple her $77,086 annual salary at Rialto Unified.
Oakes is the widow of former San Bernardino City Unified School District elementary school principal Jack Oakes. She owns two homes in San Bernardino, a variety of personal recreational vehicles and the couple regularly vacationed in Glamis, in Imperial County.
The Nutrition Services department has an annual budget of $16 million. Oakes, who resigned the day after her arrest back in August, had worked for the district since 1997.
Rialto Unified has begun the process of updating its accounting and security procedures, according to the district.
District Superintendent Harold Cebrun and Deputy Superintendent James Wallace were placed on leave Sept. 11, and the school board reaffirmed their decision to do so by a 4-1 vote on Oct. 2. (Cebrun has been out on bereavement leave since Aug. 21.)
According to Cebrun, the board made the decision to head off any accusations that the investigation could be tainted. District gossip has long linked Cebrun and Oakes romantically.
A letter, allegedly authored by Oakes, surfaced Friday, confessing to the crime and clearing Cebrun and other district officials of any involvement.
Associate Superintendent of Business Services Mohammad Z. Islam has been appointed acting superintendent for the district.
Staff writers Michel Nolan and Joe Nelson contributed to this report.
(c)2013 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.)
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