The former food service director of a suburban Chicago school district has ben charged with stealing more$1.5 million in chicken wings from the district over a 19-month period.
Vera Liddell, 66, worked for Harvey School District 152 for more than a decade, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, and was responsible for placing orders with the district’s main food supplier, Gordon Food Services.
Prosecutors say she placed the orders for chicken wings from July 2020 to February 2022 — billing the district but keeping the food.
According to court documents, the fraud began “at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school,” WGN reports
With children learning remotely, the district provided meals that their families could pick up at the district’s five schools, where 80 percent of the students qualify as “low income.” The court records say Liddell ordered more than 11,000 cases of wings and picked them up in a cargo van belonging to the school district. Prosecutors didn’t say what became of the wings.
“The food was never brought to the school or provided to the students,” reads the document.
An audit last year uncovered problems, learning the district’s food service department exceeded its annual budget by $300,000 only half-way through the year. Then the business manage uncovered multiple invoices for chicken wings, which aren’t served to students because they contain bones, prosecutors said.
The interim school superintendent, Lela Bridges, said the district was “fully cooperating” in the investigation but couldn’t comment otherwise “because of an ongoing investigation.”
Liddell was charged with theft and jailed on a $150,000 bond.
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[Featured image: Vera Liddell/Cook County Sheriff’s Office]