LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Thirteen people, including 12 district employees, have been indicted for allegedly stealing thousands of textbooks — new and old — from four school districts.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the scheme was headed by a Los Angeles book buyer.
The accused include two librarians, a campus supervisor and a former warehouse manager, said Lacey.
The 37-count indictment was returned on Aug. 20 and unsealed Thursday after 12 of the 13 defendants were arraigned and pleaded not guilty.
The indictment names employees in the financially troubled Los Angeles, Inglewood, Lynwood and Bellflower school districts.
“Taking books out of the hands of public school students is intolerable – especially when school employees sell them for their own personal profit,” Lacey said. “I commend the tenacity of our Public Integrity Division prosecutors and investigators in untangling this complicated web of deceit at our children’s expense.”
Lacey said the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation after Inglewood Unified School District police uncovered the alleged embezzlement in their district and presented the case to the District Attorney’s office for criminal prosecution.
Deputy District Attorneys Susan Schwartz and Kennes Ma with the Public Integrity Division are prosecuting the case.
The indictment alleges that 12 district employees were recruited by book seller Corey Frederick, 43,
Frederick operates “Doorkeeper Textz” in Long Beach. The DA alleges that starting in May 2008, for a two-year period, Frederick allegedly paid school employees anywhere from $600 up to $47,000 per person to steal textbooks covering an array of subjects.
In total, prosecutors allege Frederick paid out more than $200,000 in bribes to the school employees. In return, the employees allegedly allowed Frederick to take whatever books he requested, even, on some occasions, allowing him to take new textbooks.
Frederick then allegedly resold the stolen books to various textbook distributors, including Amazon, Seattle book distributor Bookbyte, and Follett Educational Services in Illinois.
Prosecutors said that in some cases, they discovered that books stolen from the districts were even resold to the same districts.
Prosecutors said at least 7,000 textbooks were stolen from LAUSD alone. Many more were stolen but the districts did not have an organized tracking method.
The 12 school employees are charged with one felony count each of embezzlement and accepting a bribe. Frederick is charged with 12 counts of embezzlement and 13 counts of offering a bribe.
The LAUSD issued a statement Thursday regarding the indictment of seven of their employees.
“District officials first learned today of the indictment of seven LAUSD employees accused of stealing thousands of new and used text books. We are outraged by the alleged behavior of these employees, which is the equivalent of stealing directly from our students. We are taking immediate action to suspend any accused employee currently working for LAUSD. If the allegations are true, we will do everything within our legal power to recoup from the parties involved the resources stolen through these reprehensible acts. The LAUSD will cooperate with the DA’s office in all aspects of this case,” said the statement.
KCAL9′s Chase Cain broke the news to parents whose kids go to Webster Middle School.
“It’s wrong to put it mildly,” said one parent, “that’s wrong.”
Parent Simone Rivera was a little more understanding but still felt the alleged crime was not justified.
“It’s a desperate attempt to make some extra money. It’s not right, even if they didn’t get a big paycheck, it’s still not right,” she said.
Cain also spoke to one of the accused, Veronica Clanton-Higgins, a librarian for Lynwood schools.
“I’m not allowed to talk to the media,” she said.
Clanton-Higgins didn’t appreciate learning that the charges against her were made public.
“Oh really? That’s unfortunate,” said told Cain.