YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Missing lunch money probe grows, may top $3 million, police say

October 04, 2013|By Richard Winton
  • Judith Oakes has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling lunch money from the Rialto Unified School District.
Judith Oakes has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling lunch money from… (Rialto Police Department…)

This post has been has corrected. See below for details.

Usually it’s the school bully who steals lunch money from the kids.

But in Rialto, it’s allegedly the accountant hired to keep an eye on the lunch money.

When accountant Judith Oakes was arrested on suspicion of embezzling from the school district’s nutrition services department this summer -- allegedly caught on surveillance tape stuffing cash in her bra -- officials said they were staggered when they were told that as much as $3.16 million might be missing.

Oakes has now been arrested on embezzlement and grand theft charges, but the fallout from the lunch money episode could extend further as law enforcement agencies and the state Department of Education are investigating why the loss was not spotted sooner.

[For the record, 7:49 p.m., Oct. 4: A previous version of this post incorrectly said Oakes had been charged. She has been arrested but not charged.]

An investigative firm hired by the Rialto Unified School District has so far found a “documented loss of at least $1,8 million but warned it could reach as high as $3.16 million, including discrepancies that could not be documented. School records go back to 2005.

The district’s superintendent and his deputy have been placed on leave by the school board.

“That is money that should have been going to students,” said school board Vice President Edgar Montes.

Oakes, 49, resigned the day after her arrest Aug. 7 on suspicion of embezzlement and grand theft.

A mother of three, Oakes earned $60,000 in her accounting job. Her late husband was a well-respected school principal in Rialto.

Rialto Police Capt. Randy De Anda said Oakes, who had worked for the district 16 years, kept tabs on lunch money for 29 district schools.

“She had unfettered access to enormous sums of money over the years -- much of it in cash,” De Anda said.

“The lunch money can really add up,” he said.


Santa Ana winds: Red flag warnings issued across Southland

21 arrested for alleged sales of prescription drugs via Craiglist

Garcetti travels to New York City for mayoral meeting and fundraising

Los Angeles Times Articles