Judgment entered against school district embezzlers

Devin McCraney, Sharika Allison (inset)
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Jefferson County Judge Milton Shuffield has ruled that former Beaumont Independent School District finance employees are responsible for paying back millions of dollars the pair stole while employed with the school district – as well as millions more in punitive damages.

According to the judgment signed Thursday, May, 5, former BISD Chief Financial Officer Devin Wayne McCraney and former Comptroller Sharika Baksh Allison must pay back, “jointly and severally, the sum of $3,144,789.94, together with pre-judgment interest in the amount of $93,051.32; and all post judgment interest on said sums at the highest rate allowed by law.”

Additionally, the pair is each ordered to pay punitive damages “in the sum of $4,041,705.25, together with all post-judgment interest on said sum at the highest rate allowed by law” – bringing the total judgment awarded to BISD at more than $11 million.

McCraney and Allison pleaded guilty in federal court April 14, 2014, to allegations of embezzling or conspiring to embezzle more than $4 million from the local school district. Each admitted before federal Judge Ron Clark that they carried out schemes to embezzle the funds from the district’s coffers during roughly a three-year period.

McCraney, on the official charge of fraud upon programs receiving federal funds, was sentenced to 68 months in federal prison. Allison, on the official charge of conspiracy to commit fraud upon programs receiving federal funds, was sentenced to 46 months.

After the pair pleaded guilty to their crimes, Neil Sanchez, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of the Inspector General’s South Central Regional Office, said he was proud of the hard work put into seeing that those who would steal from a school district pay a hefty punishment for their crimes.

“These defendants knowingly and willfully abused their position of trust to steal education funds that were supposed to be used to provide services for the most innocent of victims – school children,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”

Former Jefferson County District Attorney Cory Crenshaw, a leader in the Joint Task Force that investigated and prosecuted the public employees, said that the prison sentences were “just one step in the process of holding certain officials accountable for breaching the public’s trust.”

According to BISD attorney Greg Dykeman, the May 5 judgment against the former BISD employees is another one of those steps.

“About $900,000 was seized from their assets and paid to the district,” Dykeman said of the debt McCraney and Allison owe the school district that once paid them a salary. The combined judgment against McCraney and Allison for $3.1 million was awarded based on the out of pocket money BISD was still owed from the admitted theft in the federal case.

“Then the judge found that because of the nature of the crime, who it was against, what they took … and so forth, each of them should be assessed a punitive amount equal to what they stole,” Dykeman further reported. “That brought the judgment to over $11 million.”

The signed ruling is attached.

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