A 66-year-old woman was charged with stealing over $1.5 million worth of food – primarily chicken wings, while working as the Director of Food Services for a school district within a suburb of Chicago.
Bond was set at $150,000 Thursday for Vera Lidell, who began working for Harvey School District 152 in July 2020, placed hundreds of unauthorized orders for items between July 2020 and February 2022 – which included 11,000 cases of chicken wings through the school’s primary supplier, Gordon Food Service.
Liddell is accused of placing the orders alongside legitimate orders for the district.
“The massive fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school. Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up,” according to prosecutors.
“The food was never brought to the school or provided to the students,” reads the proffer.
Believing the orders were genuine, Gordon Food Service billed Harvey School District 152, which then paid for the food items, according to court records. Lidell would then allegedly use one of the school district’s cargo vans to pick up and transport the stolen food.
A routine mid-year audit conducted by the district’s business manager in January 2022 showed the food service department had exceeded its annual budget by over $300,000 despite only being halfway through the school year, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said Lidell was the only person responsible for placing food orders on behalf of the district. –Fox5NY
“Upon closer review, she discovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for massive quantities of chicken wings, an item that was never served to students because they contain bones,” the proffer continues.
Gordon Food Service employees got to know Lidell “due to the massive amount of chicken wings she would purchase,” while surveillance footage from the facility revealed that she would often arrive prior to them opening to pick up orders.
Lidell, whose bail is set at $150,000, is currently being held at Cook County Jail until she’s scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 22.