Charges laid in school fraud case

[attach]5369[/attach]Two years after parents warned of a potential misuse of funds at Owen Public School, police have charged the former principal and a school administrator with fraud.

On Dec. 16, Toronto Police announced former principal Stephan Howard, 62, and school administrator Androniki Lambiris, 51, had been arrested and charged with fraud, theft and misappropriation of funds.

Toronto District School Board Trustee Gerri Gershon said both of the accused have not been employed by the board for about two years, though she could not say whether they left around the same time the board’s investigation began.

The Town Crier [url=]previously reported an investigation[/url] was being undertaken in May of last year at the Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road school. At that time, Gershon said the board first became aware of a potential problem in October 2009 when the parent council began asking questions about funds raised for school items that arrive late.

But in a recent interview, she says the suspicion wasn’t solely at the parent level.

“I think there were issues that the parent council raised and as a result, we investigated,” Gershon said Jan. 3. “And not only parent council but other staff members as well.”

In a release, police said the financial crimes unit began investigating in February 2011, discovering Howard and Lambiris were both responsible for the care of the school’s accounts between 2006 and 2009.

Police go on to allege the two accused failed to purchase all of the items suggested by the parent council. Instead, police say when purchases were made, the funds from the school’s budget were used instead of those raised by the parent council.

Howard and Lambiris then allegedly used the parent council’s funds to facilitate the purchases of both non-approved items and expenses for the school as well as for themselves.

Though Gershon couldn’t comment on details of the investigation because the case is before the courts, she did say the board has a process in place for cases like this.

“We have to be vigilant of the money that is passed back and forth between parents, the schools and our staff and we have ways to check on to this,” she said.

Both of the accused are due in court at College Park on Feb. 7 in room 505 at 2 p.m.