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Workers in L.A. Unified, other districts accused of stealing books

Indictment says they would steal the textbooks for a book buyer, who would then sell some of them back to the school districts.

September 06, 2013|By Richard Winton
  • Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

A dozen employees in four of the region's most financially strapped school districts have been charged with helping steal thousands of textbooks for a book buyer, and in some cases the titles would be sold back to the same schools.

A 37-page indictment unsealed Thursday details a book-selling scheme in which Long Beach businessman Corey Frederick recruited employees — including two librarians, a campus supervisor and a former warehouse manager — to take thousands of books from schools in Los Angeles, Inglewood, Lynwood and Bellflower.

The school employees were paid about $200,000, during the course of the scheme, to steal the books, the indictment said.

Los Angeles County prosecutors said the operation ran from 2008 to December 2010.

One employee, a warehouse supervisor in Bellflower, collected $47,000 and an office technician at University High in Los Angeles got nearly $35,000, prosecutors said.

The book-buyer's business, Doorkeeper Textz, was one of the Los Angeles Unified School District's approved used book vendors in 2010, according to a district list, which names Frederick as a contact person.

Prosecutors, according to court records, said the participants pilfered at least 7,000 textbooks from L.A. Unified alone.

"Taking books out of the hands of public school students is intolerable, especially when school employees sell them for their own personal profit," Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said in announcing the corruption probe.

She called it a "web of deceit at our children's expense."

Prosecutors uncovered the scheme after Inglewood Unified School District police notified prosecutors of an alleged embezzlement in their district.

Frederick, a Long Beach book buyer, was the mastermind of the scheme, paying a dozen school employees over a two-year period to steal textbooks in literature and language arts, economics, physics, anatomy and physiology, prosecutors said.

The indictment says that the employees, in return for the bribes, allowed Frederick to take whatever books he requested, even new textbooks.

Frederick would then resell the stolen books — both used and new — to various textbook distributors, including Amazon, Seattle book distributor Bookbyte and Follett Educational Services in Illinois, prosecutors said.

In some cases, the distributors would unknowingly sell the textbooks back to the school districts from which they were stolen.

Prosecutors on Thursday said the districts so lacked any organized tracking system that their officials cannot say with any certainty how many books were actually stolen.

"We are outraged by the alleged behavior of these employees, which is the equivalent of stealing directly from our students," the L.A. Unified School District said in a brief statement.

Officials with L.A. Unified said they learned of the scheme only when the indictment was unsealed Thursday.

Frederick, who was arrested last week, is charged with 12 counts of embezzlement and 13 counts of offering a bribe. He is being held on $843,000 bail and faces more than 19 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.

Among those accused of accepting bribes were Veronica Clanton-Higgins, 36, a Lynwood Unified School District librarian who allegedly accepted $14,214, and Shari Stewart, 46, a librarian at Crozier Middle School in the Inglewood Unified School District, who allegedly received $4,200.

The others charged, and the amounts they allegedly received, are:

•Vincent Browning, a now-retired Bellflower Unified School District warehouse supervisor, $47,728.

•Frank Fuston, 54, a plant manager in the Inglewood Unified School District, $1,100.

•Sandra Williams, 58, an office technician at University High School in the L.A. district, $34,718.

•Adrienne Dozier, 62, an office technician at the district's Venice High School, $12,798.

•Denise Hill, 57, an office technician at Webster Middle School in L.A. Unified, $4,003.

•Dinah Goodlett, 53, an office technician at Locke High School in L.A. Unified, $6,099.

•Sherry Calloway, 60, an office technician at Audubon Middle School in L.A. Unified, $1,191.

•Stephanie Baurac-Holmes, 48, an office technician at L.A. Unified's Perry Middle School and Narbonne High School, $4,675.

•Olalekan Animasaun, 37, an office technician at Santee Education Center in L.A. Unified, $21,573.

All have been charged with embezzlement and accepting a bribe and face possible prison terms if convicted.

L.A. Unified officials said that any of the accused still working for the district would be suspended and that the district would attempt to recoup its losses.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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