Illinois woman charged with stealing $1.5M in chicken wings from school district
The Illinois woman accused of stealing $1.5 million in food, mostly chicken wings, over nearly two years from a school district was discovered after an audit revealed the district was hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget despite only being halfway through the school year, according to court documents.
Vera Liddell, 66, allegedly placed hundreds of unauthorized food orders with Gordon Food Service, the main food supplier to the Harvey School District 152. The scheme ran from July 2020 to February 2022, during the COVID-19 pandemic, prosecutors said.
She is charged with felony theft and continuing a financial crimes enterprise, prosecutors said, FOX Chicago reported.
Liddell allegedly placed the orders, including 11,000 cases of chicken wings, separately from the district’s legitimate orders. The food service providers then billed the district, which made the payments.
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“The massive fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school,” court documents said. “Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up.”
Liddell was hired as a consultant after her time of food services director in 2021 to assist with the transition of a new director, prosecutors said. After placing the fraudulent orders, she allegedly would pick up the food in a school district cargo van.
“The food was never brought to the school or provided to the students,” prosecutors said in court documents.
The scheme was discovered when a manager conducted a routine mid-year audit and found the district had exceeded its annual budget by over $300,000 despite only being halfway through the school year,
Prosecutors said Liddell was the only person responsible for placing food orders on behalf of the district.
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“Upon closer review, she discovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for massive quantities of chicken wings, an item that was never served to students because they contain bones,” the documents said.
Employees at the Gordon Food Service told investigators they were all familiar with Liddell because of the “massive amount of chicken wings she would purchase,” prosecutors said.