Former BISD purchasing agent faces fall trial on theft charge

Naomi Lawrence-Lee

Naomi Lawrence-Lee, fired purchasing director for the Beaumont Independent School District, has an Oct. 26 trial date in Criminal District Court in Jefferson County to face a felony theft charge, specifically aggregation of theft by a public servant of more than $1,500 but less than $20,000.

She was indicted by the grand jury in September 2014 for theft related to her billing the school district for hourly work she never performed, according to an announcement from the district attorney’s office when the indictment was unsealed. She is accused of submitting false and inflated hourly payroll records for an extra job she performed coordinating the submission and payment of soft drink sales invoices from sales at BISD football games. This activity began in late 2011 and continued through the end of the 2013 football season. She was indicted after FBI agents searched her home off Highway 105 in Beaumont in a raid linked to the federal government’s continuing investigation of the district.

If convicted, Lawrence-Lee faces up to 10 years in prison due to the amount of the theft and her status as a public servant during the course of her alleged criminal activity.

She is represented by Houston attorney Dick Deguerin, who also represents Calvin Walker, a former BISD electrical contractor indicted on fraud and embezzlement charges. Lawrence-Lee’s trial was delayed until October at Deguerin’s request. The case is being handled by veteran prosecutor Cory Kneeland, who joined the District Attorney’s Office here after a decade in Orange County. Kneeland said he expected the trial to last no more than a week but admitted he was unsure how many witnesses Deguerin would call for the defense.

Lawrence-Lee remains free on a $50,000 bond.