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Not guilty plea in BISD embezzlement case involving more than $4 million
BEAUMONT-By: Leslie Rangel
A Beaumont School District employee and a woman who was fired from her job with BISD pleaded not guilty today to federal charges of embezzling more than four million dollars from the school district, in their first hearing since their indictment.
It was the first hearing since a grand jury indicted Devin McCraney and Sharika Allison last week.
McCraney is the director of finance.
Allison is the former BISD comptroller.
They were indicted on one count of conspiracy and 18 counts of fraud.
We heard no comments from either McCraney or Allison.
Both had family and friends supporting them through the hearing.
They walked into the Beaumont federal building quiet and subdued
Former BISD comptroller Sharika Allison quietly sobbed as she walked into the jack brooks federal building, hiding tears behind sunglasses.
McCraney followed shortly after, expressionless and without any words.
The two former district employees were in federal court to enter their pleas.
They're accused of stealing and embezzling more than four million dollars from the school district.
"A real eye opener as we sat in there and the length of time it took the judge to read each wire transfer, the amount of money, " BISD board trustee Tom Neild says.
Neild is referring to amounts read by Judge Hawthorne from the indictment.
According to court documents, the two began transferring money from the district into accounts under their names in August of 2010.
That was shortly after McCraney was promoted to financial director.
And the transfers continued.
Nineteen transfers, according the the indictment, totaling more than four million dollars
The last transfer was made in October of last year.
Less than two weeks later, the FBI raided the district including the homes of both McCraney and Allison.
"The teachers get less supplies and so forth and to sit there and shortly after that still transfer more money, it's hard to even comprehend how someone could do that," Neild says.
Both McCraney and Allison pleaded not guilty, holding onto their innocence.
"I feel very confident, he's a good man and it's my pleasure to represent him and I look forward to working for him and working with him," Todd Clemons, Devin McCraney's attorney said.
But not everyone feels that way.
"Well, I think it shows just how heartless and how greed has set in," Neild said.
When the hearing ended, McCraney and Allison left.
The judge set certain conditions for their unsecured bond.
He told them not to leave the state or country and to avoid contact with anyone that might be directly or indirectly affected by the embezzlement.
The judge set a pre-trial hearing date of February 27th. A trial by jury is set for March 3rd.
BEAUMONT - BISD Finance Director Devin McCraney and former BISD Comptroller Sharika Allison pleaded not guilty Thursday morning in their first federal court hearing following indictments accusing McCraney and Allison of embezzling more than $4 million dollars from the district.
U.S. Magistrate Zack Hawthorn released them on $100,000 bonds.
A federal grand jury indicted the pair on one count of conspiracy and 18 counts of fraud.
The hearing before Magistrate Judge Hawthorn began at 10 a.m. and lasted about 30 minutes.
A pre-trial hearing is set for next month and the judge set a trial date for March 3 in U.S. District Judge Ron Clark's courtroom.
If convicted, McCraney and Allison each face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
United States Attorney's Office News Release following indictments Wednesday, January 8.
BEAUMONT, Texas The Director of Finance and Comptroller of the Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) have been indicted on federal charges in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Devin Wayne McCraney, 35, and Sharika Baksh Allison, 43, both of Beaumont, were named in a 19-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury today charging them with conspiracy and 18 counts of fraud.
According to the indictment, beginning in 2010, McCraney, Director of Finance for BISD, and Allison, Comptroller for BISD, are alleged to have devised schemes in which they embezzled $4,041,705.27 from BISD by means of 18 separate wire transfers to bank accounts under their personal control.
FDR famously said, The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize, said U.S. Attorney Bales. And the truth is that the citizens of Beaumont have heeded that wise advice and have spent lavishly on their public schools for the sake of the citys children. But as this indictment illustrates, there are individuals at BISD who have corruptly embezzled from that generous provision by stealing over $4 million dollars that was intended to underwrite excellent schools in Beaumont. The Grand Jury has alleged that Devin McCraney and Sharika Allison have been caught red-handed and if convicted, they will face justice. In the same way, federal agents and prosecutors will remain vigilant to detect, investigate and hold accountable other so-called public servants who are abusing the public trust.
"The FBI recognizes that fighting public corruption is vital to preserving our democracy," said SAC Stephen L. Morris. "Our public officials have and always will be held to a higher standard to maintain their positions of trust. These indictments today signify a violation of the public trust given to Devin McCraney and Sharika Allison."
If you have any information related to this matter, please call the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 409-832-8571.
Todays indictment alleges that these two public officials knowingly and willfully abused their positions of trust to steal funds from the very ones they promised to serve the children of the Beaumont Independent School District. That is completely unacceptable, said Neil Sanchez, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector Generals Southwest Regional Office. OIG Special Agents will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of our nations students. Americas students, their families, and taxpayers deserve nothing less.
The defendants each face up to 10 years in federal prison.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher T. Tortorice and Joseph R. Batte.
A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.