An Illinois food service director for an underprivileged school district has been charged with stealing $1.5 million worth of chicken wings and other food items. Vera Liddell, 66, was an employee of Harvey School District 152 for more than 10 years. However, authorities believe her theft ramped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, WGN9 reports.
According to court records, Liddell ordered more than 11,000 cases of chicken wings from the food provider used by the district and went to pick it up herself. Such an order would have been extreme in any circumstance, but given that students were attending classes at home during lockdown, it raised immediate red flags. This despite the fact that the school was still providing food for struggling families at this time.
A proffer read at Vera Liddell’s bond hearing read: “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. The food was never brought to the school or provided to the students.”
Vera Liddell was caught out on a technicality
A mid-year audit by the district’s business manager caught Liddell out. It was soon discovered that the district had exceeded its annual food budget by more than $300,000 even though there were more than six months left in the year.
Upon further investigation, Vera Liddell’s plan began to unravel. “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,” prosecutors revealed. When they spoke with Gordon Food Service, they immediately knew who Liddell was given her frequent and sizeable orders.
Vera Liddell was arrested and charged with theft. She remains in Cook County Jail on $150,000 bond. It’s unclear what ever became of the chicken wings.