Home>Education>AZ Leader Borelli Sheds Light on Fraudulent School Schemes

State Senator Sonny Borrelli speaking with the media at a press conference hosted by Border 911 at the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix, January 26, 2023. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

AZ Leader Borelli Sheds Light on Fraudulent School Schemes

Demands transparency into millions of taxpayer dollars swindled from public schools

By Steve Kirwan, February 14, 2024 8:55 am

In a February 12, 2024 press release, Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli condemned several fraudulent money-grabbing schemes resulting in the loss of $1.8M perpetrated against Arizona public schools. Arizona’s Auditor General Lindsey Perry released the results of a 2023 investigation culminating in criminal referrals for five individuals for theft, misuse of public monies, fraudulent schemes, forgery, conspiracy, and computer tampering.

Throughout 2023, the Auditor General received 74 claims of fraudulent activities from within K-12 and Arizona’s University systems. The five included an Arizona State University Technology Office manager, A Hyder Elementary School District office specialist, two Gila Bend Unified School District employees, and the Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education/Future Farmers of America (FFA) executive secretary. The charges stemmed from alleged embezzlement of funds from public accounts and the use of official credit cards to buy personal items. Four of the individuals charged pleaded guilty, receiving sentences of probation, community service, and financial restitution. The DoE executive secretary’s case is still pending.

In 2022, an Auditor General investigation uncovered over $980,000 in losses resulting in 25 criminal charges filed against five individuals within Toltec Elementary School District, Wilson Elementary School District, and Glendale Elementary School District. In light of the 2022 and 2023 losses, the AG recommends implementing multiple anti-fraud initiatives to prevent such behavior in the future.

Leader Borelli demanded greater accountability and transparency from the K12 and AZ University systems to minimize such fiscal abuses and criticized Governor Hobbs’ “Witch hunt” against Arizona’s school choice, or ESA, program. Hobbs has threatened to use executive action to end the ESA program and return the funds earmarked for school vouchers to public K12 programs.

“Arizonans should have confidence knowing their tax dollars are being spent to educate students, but we’re finding individuals within public school districts and public universities are illegally padding their personal bank accounts and purchasing gifts for themselves, like video game consoles, exercise equipment, and laptop computers,” Borelli stated. “I implore Governor Hobbs and Democrats to stop their obsessive witch hunt focusing on the majority of honest families participating in the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, and to instead scrutinize the criminal activity happening right now in our public school districts and universities, which is robbing millions of dollars collectively from taxpayers, students, and teachers.”



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