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Mistrial for teacher accused of defrauding LAUSD

While a math teacher for the school district, Matthias Vheru got it to purchase a textbook he'd written, making $930,000 on the deal. The jury hung 11 to 1 for acquittal.

February 26, 2009|Alicia Lozano

A mistrial was declared Wednesday in a fraud case against a former Los Angeles Unified School District math teacher who prosecutors said conned the district into placing a $3.7-million order to buy math textbooks he wrote.

After deliberating for eight days, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The panel was hung 11 to 1 in favor of acquitting Matthias Vheru, 53. The U.S. attorney's office has until March 23 to decide whether to retry Vheru.

"I feel great," Vheru said. "I felt like I didn't do anything wrong. I'm glad the majority saw that."

Some jurors filing out of the courtroom hugged Vheru and shook his hand, congratulating him and sympathizing with his frustration at missing five weeks of work because of the proceedings.

According to prosecutors, Vheru defrauded L.A. Unified in 2004 while interim director of mathematics. In that position, he persuaded the district to purchase about 45,000 copies of an algebra book he wrote, they alleged. Prosecutors also said Vheru did not disclose to district officials his financial interest in the transaction.

As a result of the district's purchase, Vheru received about $930,000.

Vheru's attorney argued that his client obtained the proper approval from both the mathematics department and the accounting office before placing the purchase order. Disclosing royalties on book sales was not part of L.A. Unified's policy, his attorney said. He added that teachers frequently write textbooks that are used in the district.

"The jury spoke loud and clear that Mr. Vheru has done nothing wrong," said his attorney, Steve Haney. "This has been a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money."

Vheru said he is working on a second algebra textbook and is teaching at Palmdale's Knight High School.

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alicia.lozano@latimes.com

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