Exclusive: Homestead High School Treasurer Accused Of Stealing Funds

HOMESTEAD (CBS4) – For the third time in the past year, a treasurer at a Miami-Dade Public school has been arrested and charged with stealing funds from her school.

According to an arrest affidavit obtained exclusively by CBS4 News, 29-year-old Juanita Olivera of Homestead is charged with Grand Theft over $10,000 and Uttering Forged Instruments.

The arrest affidavit says two audits from the last two years were missing from Homestead Sr. High School and $10,004 was traced to a theft by Olivera.

Parents and students told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that they were saddened by the arrest. They say they were upset that someone who was expected to protect the school’s much-needed money is accused of taking it.

“That’s bad. That shouldn’t happen in a school,” said Santiago Gaspear, the father of a 10th grade student at the school, Tomas Hernandez.

Hernandez echoed what his father said.

He told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “It’s terrible they’re taking money from us. They’re taking other people’s money. It’s not fair. You don’t have any more confidence in somebody who is supposed to manage your money and who is stealing from you. It makes no sense.”

“This is an unfortunate situation involving one of our employees making a bad decision,” said Sgt. Ivan Silva of Miami-Dade Schools Police. “This whole incident was uncovered by the Office of Management and Compliance. They did an incredible job of finding out about all those missing funds. Basically they are the ones who uncovered it by going through everything at the schools.”

Authorities say Oliver was entrusted with independently managing funds that were used for school functions and dealt with substantial sums of money.

According to the arrest affidavit, Olivera forged signatures, created fictitious documents and transferred money between accounts to give the appearance of positive balances.

“The audit revealed that the defendant over an eighteen-month period falsified several internal receipts within the secured computer accounting system in order to conceal various missing funds,” said the affidavit.

“Additionally, the defendant reused receipts numbers in lieu of an official automated receipt, to satisfy the employees who submitted deposits,” said the affidavit.

“This situation involved a low-performing school where they needed every dollar available to them for supplies,” said Silva. “The main thing nowadays is that this all comes from taxpayer money. Every penny is being sought after and needs to be spent the right way.”

Olivera is also accused of falsifying receipts.

The arrest affidavit says Olivera did tell an auditor that she had paid most of the money back. She said she borrowed the money for personal use and still owes $590.

Last August, the Treasurer of Miami Edison Senior High School, Lisa Bradley, was charged with stealing $14,332. The incident report said Bradley cashed 14 fraudulent checks. The report said “Ms. Bradley indicated…that she had fallen on financial hard times and began to steal money from the school by fraudulently creating checks on the school’s check machine.”

“Ms. Bradley would create checks to be paid to her and deposit them into her personal bank account,” said the report.

Last June, Sadie Lee, the Treasurer at Miami Norland Senior High School, “collected funds totaling $7,103 but never deposited (the money) in the Wachovia Bank internal funds account,” according to a case supplemental report.

The investigation report says Lee “fraudulently altered bank statements.”

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