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Graduate Charged in Theft of Funds at Marshall High

October 08, 1987|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

An investigation by Los Angeles police and school district security officials into the disappearance of as much as $30,000 from John Marshall High School student body funds has led to the arrest of one student and the resignation of the school's senior financial manager, a Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman said.

An 18-year-old former student of the Los Feliz-area school, Jettye Sone Reedy, was charged last week with misdemeanor grand theft in connection with $7,000 missing from the school's student store, which sells school supplies, yearbooks and numerous items.

When the theft was discovered in July, school officials began an investigation that uncovered major discrepancies throughout student body accounts, district Deputy Controller Henry Jones said. School officials say they do not know yet how much of the missing funds represent bookkeeping errors and how much might have been stolen.

School security officials, who have the authority to apprehend suspects, expect to make more arrests when their investigation is completed, district spokesman William Rivera said. The $30,000 in missing funds was verified by an internal audit completed by the district last month but not made public, he said.

After discovery of the bookkeeping errors, Marshall High School senior financial manager Roberto Benitez resigned rather than face dismissal, Rivera said. Principal Donald Hahn said Benitez is not a suspect in the case.

Benitez was financial manager of the 3,200-student school for three years, Hahn said, and had made no major bookkeeping errors until this year.

Benitez declined comment.

Worked at Store

Reedy, who worked at the store before graduating in June, allegedly took $5,000 in cash and $2,000 in checks from a money bag used to transport store receipts to the bank by armored car, Detective Barry Matthews of the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division said.

Reedy was released on $500 bail Sept. 24, according to Ted Goldstein, spokesman for the city attorney's office. An original felony charge had been reduced to a misdemeanor by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office because Reedy had no record. An arraignment date has not been set.

Reedy could not be located for comment.

School district police are handling the bulk of the criminal investigation, said Herbert Gramm, director of police and administrative services for the district. They have not yet identified suspects among the other 14 students and four adults who had access to about $60,000 in revenues annually taken in by the store, he said.

Extensive Investigation

The school district's audit department has completed an extensive financial investigation of student body funds, according to Robert Booker, chief business and financial manager for the school district. But officials would not elaborate on the nature of the missing funds because of the investigation.

The student store at Marshall High School is overseen by four clerical staff members. Ultimate responsibility for the financial management of any school store in the district lies with the school's financial manager, said Olanzo Woodfin, division administrator of accounting services for the district.

The district holds a fidelity bond with a maximum coverage of $500,000 to cover mismanagement or misappropriation of school funds by employees, Woodfin said.

It has not been determined how much of the student funds will be reimbursed, Rivera said, because the district increased its deductible from $1,000 to $50,000 on July 1.

Officials did not predict when the case would be resolved, or when further arrests might occur.

"It is our belief that the funds that have been taken belong to the kids," Jones said. "We will take every step to make sure that the funds will be returned to the students who deserve those funds." Student body funds, generated by sales at the student store, tickets sold for sports activities and by fund drives, are managed by the student council and overseen by an administrator. The funds are used to supplement athletic equipment, buy uniforms and purchase materials for student activities.

District officials said they plan no change in accounting or security procedures as a result of Marshall High School's troubles.

"We have very strict procedures that school financial managers are expected to follow," Booker said. "We have adequate security devices, we have safes in school. We have adequate safeguards in that regard."

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