Officials have arrested a 36-year-old woman and her parents—all former employees of a (BCSD) child care program—in connection with the theft of roughly $130,000.
According to a report released Monday morning by the district and the , the investigation began about eight months ago, "after a routine review by the school district’s business office uncovered discrepancies in the financial records." The inconsistencies were reportedly limited to funds associated with a before and after-school child care program at .
Officials say that Superintendent Dr. Jane Sandbank notified authorities at the Sheriff's Office of the missing funds in the spring. Investigator Michael Nalbone of the agency's Bureau of Criminal Investigation took the lead on the case.
In January, officials arrested Brandi Wickliffe, 36, who they say surrendered herself. She was charged with second-degree grand larceny, a felony. Officials say she allegedly stole more than $115,000 in program revenue.
Wickliffe's parents, Newburgh residents Eric and Debra Thompson, both 62, reportedly surrendered themselves on Thursday. They are accused of stealing about $15,000 in "overpaid salary by collecting the money for services that were not actually performed," according to police. Each is facing a felony charge of third-degree grand larceny.
The release did not specify the duration of employment with the BCSD program for any of the three defendants. Sandbank said Monday afternoon that the defendants had been running the program for years. Both Eric and Debra Thompson are retired Brewster teachers.
Wickliffe was arraigned before Village of Brewster Justice Richard O'Rourke. She was remanded to the Putnam County Correctional Facility on $10,000 cash bail or $30,000 bond. She later posted and was released pending a March 12 court appearance.
"Investigation revealed that she [Wickliffe] created her own bank account and deposited the money into it for her personal use," the release states. "It was further learned that she spent some of the money to pay for personal items, including a vacation to Disney World in Florida, a vacation at Lake George, food, gasoline, cell phone bills, rent, DVD rentals, insurance bills, entertainment tickets, haircuts, manicures and clothing purchases."
Debra Thompson also faces 12 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, all felonies. Police say those charges stem from "allegedly filing fraudulent payment vouchers with the school district resulting in the unlawful overpayment of their wages."
Both she and Eric Thompson were arraigned before Southeast Town Justice Gregory Folchetti and released without bail. They are due in court on April 3.
Officials say the child care program—which currently sees about 65 students in the kindergarten to middle school age range—has been in existence for more than two decades. It "was always intended to be financially self-sufficient with no taxpayer support. The program, funded by parent fees, was designed to function as a break-even program, in order to provide the community, at an affordable price, needed child care services outside of school hours."
"This program was subject to the district’s routine annual audits as required by law," Sandbank said in the release. "These audits never indicated any wrong doing. However, improvements in internal controls have been implemented throughout the District in order to make the occurrence of similar thefts unlikely in the future.”
The superintendent thanked members of the Sheriff's Office and the Putnam County District Attorney's Office for their work on the case. Sheriff Donald B. Smith also expressed his gratitude.
“This was a very difficult case for many reasons,” he said.
“Investigators worked for months to gather enough evidence enabling them to arrest three individuals suspected of embezzling much-needed revenue from a public school system and using the money for their personal gain. These types of crimes are not only time consuming to investigate, but are injurious to the rightful owner of the money and violate the public’s trust."