Former Grand Prairie school official indicted on federal theft charge

The former chief financial officer of the Grand Prairie school district is accused of stealing about $600,000 from the district.
The former chief financial officer of the Grand Prairie school district is accused of stealing about $600,000 from the district.

The ex-chief financial officer of the Grand Prairie school district has been arrested and accused of stealing about $600,000 in federal money from the district.

Carolyn Foster, 61, of Lewisville was arrested Monday at her job as an independent finance contractor for International Leadership of Texas in Richardson.

Last week, Foster was indicted on one count of federal program theft. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

“The alleged theft of funds by the former chief financial officer of the Grand Prairie school district was a reprehensible act of selfishness and greed and deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Superintendent Susan Hull said in a statement.

Two accountants in the district’s finance department questioned the way cash had been handled and alerted their supervisor on Sept. 1 after Foster left the district last year, Hull said.

Foster allegedly ordered the money withdrawn from district bank accounts and delivered by armored truck to the district offices, Hull said.

Foster is accused of telling finance department employees that the money was for special cash awards for teachers for school supplies and for settlements in lawsuits. But Hull said there were no lawsuits that needed cash settlements.

The former CFO had apparently changed district financial procedures so she could quietly access the money, Hull said. Foster had access to cash in the administration building vault that was for awards to teachers and other school needs.

The federal indictment alleges that from October 2014 to July 2015 Foster fraudulently obtained about $600,000 from the district, which received the money from the Education Department.

Hull said the district has implemented new processes and procedures for accessing money. Two district officials are now involved in any order for cash, maximum withdrawal amounts are $10,000 and cash can only be withdrawn for concession stand supplies.

School officials have also added two floor-bolted safes with digital combinations and additional surveillance cameras in the vault and safe areas.

In a Monday hearing, Foster pleaded not guilty to the charge in a Dallas federal courtroom and was released on bail.

As a condition for release, Foster had to surrender her passport, remove all firearms from her home and not seek employment that involves handling finances.

“As soon as ILTexas was notified of the arrest for issues related to her employment at a previous school district, her contract was terminated,” IL Texas spokeswoman Brittany Taylor said Tuesday in an email. Foster was hired as an independent contractor on April 6 at the public charter school in Richardson.

Foster could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Initially, a federal public defender was appointed for her because she could not afford to hire an attorney, according to a financial affidavit.

But minutes later in the Monday hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Horan reversed his order and terminated the appointment. The court found that Foster had the funds available to hire an attorney, according to federal court documents.

Agents with the Secret Service investigated the case.

“All of us at GPISD deeply regret this apparent violation of the public trust by this former official,” Hull said Tuesday. “We thank our community for their strong and ongoing support of our schools and our children, and we will work hard every day to continue to earn that support.”

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr