(The Center Square) – A finance director at a Philadelphia-area public school has been sentenced to more than a year in prison after embezzling $100,000 from a school district over a seven-year period.
Christopher Gehris, an employee of the Phoenixville-area school district and its chief financial officer since 2018, stole $94,613 from the district, according to a Press release of the Ministry of Justice.
“Gehris cashed checks made out to her name and to ‘cash’, received checks and direct deposits into her personal checking account for ‘start-up money’ for student activities, stole money from programs school and got gift cards for personal expenses,” the statement said.
He hid the theft by altering receipts and falsifying reports sent to the school board.
“The criminals who embezzle public money from schools are ripping off hundreds of students while ripping off all the taxpayers who fund them,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams.
Gehris had resigned from PASD after an internal audit found discrepancies and was reported to local authorities. He will have to serve 14 months in prison and repay the embezzled funds. He had faced a maximum penalty 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
PASD hired an independent company to conduct a forensic audit, which has been made public after the closing of the Justice Department’s investigation. It showed Gehris spending money on Lego kits and a Nintendo Switch, NBA tickets to a Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers basketball game, a check with ‘start-up money’ for his description , and other expenses.
The audit indicated that the school district had insufficient segregation of duties for cash management, programs that were “off the book” and “primarily outside the PASD control environment”, and limited knowledge of the accounting in the business office, with the exception of Gehris.
“Today’s decision allows all parties to begin moving forward,” the district said in a statement posted on its website. website. “Mr. Gehris’ actions have had a negative impact on students, parents, the community, and the District. The District thanks the Phoenixville Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. District Attorney, and the Federal Courts for their work and thoughtful deliberations.
As Gehris embezzled money, district spending rose from $78 million in 2012-13 to $91 million in 2019-20.