Chicago School Employee Charged With Stealing Over $1,000,000 Worth Of Chicken Wings

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Emily Cope Contributor
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Prosecutors have charged an official in a Chicago-area school employee with engaging in a massive embezzlement scheme after she allegedly stole more than $1.5 million worth of taxpayer-funded school meals, including over 11,000 cases of chicken wings.

Vera Liddell, 66, worked in Harvey School District 151 for over a decade, according to WGN 9. While serving as the director of food services, Liddell allegedly ordered and picked up more than $1.5 million in food that students never received.

Liddell is being held in the Cook County Jail on a $150,000 bond, according to the outlet.

“The massive fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school,” according to a court document presented at Liddell’s bond hearing. “Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up.”

The school district‘s business manager discovered the alleged embezzlement during a routine mid-year audit. The district manager noticed the food service department had exceeded its annual budget by $300,000, despite only being halfway through the school year. According to prosecutors, the audit uncovered invoices signed by Liddell for “massive quantities” of chicken wings. (RELATED: Restaurant Owner Blames Labor Shortage For 99% Increase In Chicken Wings Prices)

Court records state that Liddell ordered more than 11,000 cases of chicken wings from the school district’s food supplier, Gordon Food Services, and picked up the cases in a district cargo van, reported Fox News. While the orders were placed outside of the school’s regular orders, Gordon Food Services assumed Liddell was authorized to place the orders because of her position with the school and billed the school district for the purchases.

Gordon Food Services employees were interviewed as part of the investigation conducted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Employees said they were all familiar with Liddell “due to the massive amount of chicken wings she would purchase,” the outlet said.

Prosecutors did not reveal what became of the chicken wings after Liddell picked them up, but the court document confirmed that “the food was never brought to the school or provided to the students.”

Prosecutors said it is unusual for chicken wings to be served to students, as they contain bones.

Harvey School District comprises about 1,600 students, over 80 percent of whom qualify as low-income.