Former school finance director gets five years for stealing $1.6 million

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A former Franklin County school district finance employee was sentenced Thursday  to five years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove, for money laundering and filing a false tax return.

Lesley Wade was a long-time employee of the Franklin County Board of Education, most recently serving as the FCBOE’s Financial Director.

In Wade’s guilty plea agreement, she admitted that, starting in February 2011 and continuing through about June 25, 2019, she wrote unauthorized checks of FCBOE money to herself, then falsified the necessary FCBOE records and invoices to cover up her crimes.

Wade also served as treasurer of Leestown Gospel Church in Frankfort, where she essentially had plenary control over its financial management, with little oversight or internal controls, federal prosecutors said.

Wade also admitted to periodically using her control over the church’s finances to launder money she had stolen from the FCBOE, using the church’s account before writing checks to herself, attempting to avoid detection and making the checks appear legitimate.

Her theft of funds, which took place over a term of years, resulted in the FCBOE losing a total of $1,624,593. Further hiding her theft of funds, Wade also admitted she willfully filed false individual income tax returns, for the years 2011-2018, by intentionally failing to report the income from her fraudulent scheme. The total amount of tax loss is $315,677, prosecutors said.

Wade pleaded guilty in May 2020.

“The defendant’s conduct is truly outrageous – she harmed the citizens of Franklin County and abused her position of trust by stealing money from Board of Education and then used her church’s bank account to launder some of the stolen money,” said Robert M. Duncan Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “We remain committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to investigate and prosecute embezzlement, including cases involving public employees, and violations of the tax laws.”

“Placed in a position of trust, the defendant methodically stole money from the public and then attempted to cover it up by laundering money through her church,” said FBI Special Agent Robert James Brown Jr. “The FBI will not stand for officials who steal from the taxpayers they serve and, along with our partners, will continue the significant work of rooting out corruption and fraud.”

Under federal law, Wade must serve 85 percent of her prison sentence. Upon her release, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for three years.

U.S. Attorney Duncan; SAC Brown, and SAC Jackson; jointly announced the sentencing.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and IRS. The United States was represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney James Chapman.

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