BISD money handlers indicted for embezzlement

Marilyn Tennissen Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm

Two employees entrusted with managing the finances of the Beaumont Independent School District have been indicted on federal charges for allegedly embezzling $4 million from the district.

Devin Wayne MCraney, 35, Director of Finance, and Sharika Baksh Allison, 43, Comptroller, were named in a 19-count indictment by a federal grand jury in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the indictment, McCraney and Allison allegedly devised a scheme in 2010 that eventually led to embezzlement of $4,041,705.27 from BISD. The scheme involved at least 18 wire transfers from the district to their personal accounts, legal documents states.

"FDR famously said, 'The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be wiling to economize'," said U.S. Attorney John M. Bales at a Jan. 9 press conference. "And the truth is that the citizens of Beaumont have heeded that wise advice and have spent lavishly on their public schools for the sake of the city's children. But as this indictment illustrates, there are individuals at BISD who have corruptly embezzled from that generous provision by stealing over $4 million that was intended to underwrite excellent schools in Beaumont. The Grand Jury has alleged that Devin McCraney and Sharika Allison have been caught red-handed and if convicted, they will face justice. In the same way, federal agents and prosecutors will remain vigilant  to detect, investigate and hold accountable other so-called public servants who are abusing the public trust."

The transactions took place between Aug. 23, 2010, and Oct. 24, 2013, 11 days before an FBI raid on BISD headquarters and the homes of McCraney and Allison.

According to the indictment, McCraney was one of three people in BISD who had authority to make wire transfers and could do so unilaterally, without the authorization or knowledge of a second person. Allegedly, McCraney began wiring money from BISD's Bank of America account to three accounts under his control.

"McCraney attempted to make the wire transfers appear legitimate by including notations on the transfer instructions such as 'Workers Comp Special Funding,' and 'Tax Adjustment," the indictment alleges.

McCraney's alleged illegal transfers reportedly total $2,689,722.16, according to the indictment.

In a separate but related scheme, Allison created a fake business with the name "Milimann Consultants" in April 2012. Allison and McCraney knew that BISD did business with an actuarial company called "Milliman USA." The indictment says she made five wire transfers from the BISD Bank of America account to a Capital One account owned by Sharika Allison dba Milimann Consultants. Allegedly, she would write a check to McCraney for half of the funds she received.

The defendants face up to 10 years in federal prison.


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