Feds allege another scam at North Side elementary school, charge 3 former administrators
An indictment said the administrators helped cheat the Chicago Public Schools out of $250,000 by submitting bogus orders and invoices for school supplies that really concealed the receipt of iPhones, iPads and $30,000 in gift cards for a former principal.
Seven months after the feds first leveled charges against the former principal of a North Side elementary school, prosecutors on Wednesday alleged yet another scam there and revealed charges against two additional ex-administrators.
Former Brennemann Elementary School Assistant Principal Jennifer McBride and former school business manager William Jackson were each charged along with former Principal Sarah Jackson Abedelal in a superseding indictment unsealed Wednesday.
The indictment alleged the administrators helped cheat the Chicago Public Schools out of $250,000 by submitting bogus orders and invoices for school supplies that really concealed the receipt of iPhones, iPads and $30,000 in gift cards for Abedelal.
McBride and Jackson also allegedly participated in an earlier-charged scam in which school employees were told to sign paperwork falsely certifying they worked overtime hours. They were then told to give the extra money to Abedelal and McBride. Abedelal claimed the money would go to legitimate school expenses.
Abedelal instead planned to use it for personal expenses, prosecutors allege.
McBride, 40, is charged with four counts of wire fraud. She also went by “Jennifer Ellen,” according to prosecutors. Jackson, 37, is charged with five counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. Abedelal, 58, faces one count of wire fraud.
Attorneys for McBride and Jackson were not yet listed on the court docket Wednesday afternoon. Abedelal’s attorney, Jonathan Bedi, said “Sarah is a wonderful friend and family to everybody who knows her, and she is looking forward to putting this episode behind her.”
CPS released a statement Wednesday that said, “Chicago Public Schools holds its school leaders to high standards for personal and professional conduct, and the District takes action when concerns about employee behavior are identified. These two former employees are not eligible for rehire with CPS while the investigation remains open. If these charges are true, they represent a blatant betrayal of the public trust and do not reflect our District or our many dedicated school leaders and educators. There is no place for this type of misconduct at Chicago Public Schools.”
The newly revealed scheme involved the filing of $45,000 in fake purchase orders and invoices. It allegedly began when, in February 2016, a sales representative told Abedelal that the person’s company could give Abedelal items for personal use if Brennemann submitted bogus paperwork making it look like the school had ordered legitimate supplies.
Abedelal allegedly told the sales representative to purchase the iPhones, iPads and gift cards over the several months that followed, and Abedelal and Jackson allegedly worked with the sales representative to file the false paperwork.
Along the way, $250,000 in CPS funds were wrongly obtained by Abedelal, McBride, Jackson, the sales representative and others, according to the feds. The sales representative was not charged or named in Wednesday’s indictment.
The separate overtime scam allegedly lasted from 2012 until 2019, prosecutors have previously said. That means both scams allegedly occurred despite the public kickback scandal charged in 2015 that led to the conviction and imprisonment of former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
After a visit by investigators from the CPS Office of Inspector General on March 7, 2019, McBride allegedly told a school employee to lie to the investigators about the overtime scam. McBride also told Abedelal to buy a “burner” phone to help them avoid investigators, according to the indictment.
Abedelal’s tenure at the school generated protests in 2014 from parents who accused her of an “iron fist” approach to discipline.