Sheila Accornero, former business manager of Kid Street Learning Center in Santa Rosa, kept a "shadow" book of accounts that fooled school officials and auditors while she skimmed nearly $400,000, principal Linda Conklin alleged Monday.
"That's what Sheila was doing; she had a whole second set of books," Conklin said between greetings to parents and new students beginning the school year Monday at the charter school.
Accornero, 42, is in jail accused of forging Conklin's signature on charter school checks totaling $396,633.87 that she allegedly wrote to herself. The scheme went undetected for more than 2? years until someone at Accornero's credit union became suspicious of her account activity and alerted authorities, Conklin said.
Robin McKenzie, a senior vice president of Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, would not confirm the credit union's role in uncovering the suspected embezzlement. "We're not able to comment on individual situations or member accounts," she said.
Annual independent audits, school district reviews and the school's bank didn't reveal that hundreds of checks of $1,000 or less being written to Accornero were potentially fraudulent. Audits, required by state law, don't look at every financial transaction of a school, district officials said.
Accornero is to be arraigned Aug. 22 when she'll also have a bail hearing, said attorney Steve Weiss, who said he expects to be retained in the case as Accornero's attorney.
Christine Cook, assistant district attorney, declined to discuss the case Monday.
Accornero, a Cloverdale resident, faces felony embezzlement and forgery charges. Santa Rosa police said a prescription drug habit fueled the alleged crimes.
The financial cloud hanging over the charter school wasn't visible on campus Monday as excited students with backpacks rushed up the steps for their first day of the school year. Teachers, students and parents greeted each other with hugs, words of welcome and big smiles.
But standing outside the Davis Street school the adults also spoke of the embezzlement allegations, expressing support for the unique school of 48 students, and in some cases for Accornero.