More than $1 million worth of chicken wings were allegedly stolen by a south suburban school worker named Vera Liddell. The former director of food services at Harvey School District 152, located south of Chicago, Illinois, was accused of running an embezzlement scheme in which taxpayers lost more than $1.5 million.
According to CBS, Liddell’s scheme began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when students were faced with attending classes virtually. To assist parents, the school district still provided meals for pickup. Between July 2020 and February 2022, hundreds of unauthorized orders were placed by Liddell through Gordon Food Services, the school district vendor. Included in the orders were 11,000 cases of chicken wings.
Believing the orders were authorized, Gordon Food Services billed the district for each purchase. The district would pay each bill in full, unaware that some were fraudulent. It wasn’t until January 2022, when the district business manager did a routine mid-year audit, that the budget was revealed to be $300,000 over budget. At the time, school was only half way through its year. Further examination uncovered Liddell’s signature on invoices for ridiculous amounts of chicken wings.
After checking surveillance footage, they saw Liddell pick up the food orders from Gordon Food Services, although the food was never brought to the school or the students. Prosecutors explained that, due to safety concerns, the school district doesn’t even serve chicken wings with bones to students.
"The district cannot comment at this time because of an ongoing investigation. However, we are fully cooperating with the authorities regarding this matter," District 152 Interim Supt. Lela Bridges said in a statement.