WASHINGTON (AP) — A school employee in Maryland who had oversight of her district’s federal funds for low-income students is accused of using the money to buy computers, video game consoles and other electronics for herself and family members, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Rhayda Barnes-Thomas, who worked in the Charles County school system, was charged with theft from a government program and making false statements. She appeared in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., and was released on her own recognizance. Her attorney declined comment.

Prosecutors said Barnes-Thomas used Title I funding, federal aid awarded to school districts with large numbers of children from low-income families, to buy more than 200 electronics items, including Nintendo Wii consoles and games, televisions, iPads and iPods.

The alleged theft of more than $100,000 was uncovered during an audit last fall.

Barnes-Thomas, 40, of Accokeek, Md., had been the school district’s Title I coordinator since 2006.

“We’re shocked that any school employee, regardless of their position, would allegedly misuse funds designated for children — and in this case, funds designated for our most economically disadvantaged students,” said school system spokeswoman Katie O’Malley Simpson.

She said Barnes-Thomas was placed on administrative leave in December and no longer works at the school.

The investigation began when school system employees noticed that four Apple laptops bought with Title I funding were missing, according to the complaint. Two of the laptops were taken by two school district employees and later returned.

The other two laptops were found outside a school district building last December along with a newspaper article about the investigation into the missing computers, the complaint said.

Barnes-Thomas initially lied about the alleged theft by denying to an investigator that she possessed items bought with Title I funding.

The theft charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, and making false statements is punishable by up to 5 years.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (6)
  1. Sick of stupid says:

    How is it possible that funds which are to be used for low-income children are diverted, with out anyone noticing, into the pocket of a Md public school system employees account. This is almost as good as the article earlier today in which it was voted that DC student can get federal money to go to private school because the DC schools are the worst in the country. PEOPLE…get off your lazy a*ses and start complaining like me. Things might change if people start to take notice of what the government is doing with their tax dollars!!!!

  2. Adam says:

    The problem is that your tax dollars are gone. They blew them on foreign aid and 3 ongoing wars. A government of the prolateriate is badly needed.

  3. no rights says:

    It is sickening to hear about this happening and yet it happens far more than we think. In the past 20 years I know of at least 3 incidents involving social security. Unless someone notifies the newspaper these thefts remain within the company. I say name them, let their names be publicized, embarrass them in front of their friends and family, let the public know what type of person they really are.

  4. Raymond says:

    I didn’t know Sheilla Dixon got a job with the Charles County school system

    1. Iva Bolden says:

      Raymond, You must have read my mind. i found myself wondering if there was any correlation. I hope this person gets the full allowable sentence unlike what Dixon escaped.

  5. j says:

    she should be ashamed of herself. Stealing from needy children, that’s low

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