General Crime

* Sheila Accornero finance manager of a nonprofit Santa Rosa charter school arraigned embezzlement and forgery charges

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The finance and business manager of a nonprofit Santa Rosa charter school was arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court this afternoon on embezzlement and forgery charges. Sheila Accornero, 42, of Cloverdale, allegedly embezzled nearly $400,000 from the Kids Street Learning Center charter school in Santa Rosa and the school building’s owner, Lincoln Holding Company Inc., Deputy District Attorney Amy Ariyoshi said.

Accornero did not enter a plea to the eight felony charges and is scheduled to return to court Aug. 22. She is being held at Sonoma County Jail without bail for violating her probation for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud in February 2008. Accornero also is charged in the forgery and embezzlement complaint with possessing a controlled substance without a prescription.

Ariyoshi said the alleged embezzlement and forgery charges occurred between December 2008 and Tuesday, when Accornero was interviewed and arrested, but that the case is still under investigation. Accornero was hired by the school at 709 Davis St. in Santa Rosa in 2005, Ariyoshi said. Accornero allegedly embezzled $389,477.84 from the charter school and $7,156.03 from Lincoln Holding Company Inc., Ariyoshi said.

On its website, the Kids Street Learning Center lists its mission as providing children and families living in extreme crisis a caring, supportive educational community to call home. The school fosters a “hands-on, real world self initiated education,” according to the website. Kids Street Learning Center also offers an after-school program. Larae Archibald, an investigator with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, said she received information about “suspicious financial activity” from the United States Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network which tracks suspicious financial transactions.

“I dug deeper and got bank records and it appeared obvious to me,” Archibald said of the alleged embezzlement outside the courtroom this afternoon. The school’s administrators were unaware of the missing money until detectives contacted them Tuesday, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Mike Lazzarini said. The school’s executive director and principal, Linda Conklin, has not returned a phone call for comment.

The school is funded through grants and donations, police said. Accornero had a large amount of prescription pain pills when she was arrested and is believed to have acted alone, Lazzarini said.”She wrote checks to herself, cashed them and spent them all on prescription drugs,” Lazzarini said. “Some of the checks totaled $20,000 to $30,000 a month. There were a lot of transactions,” Lazzarini said. Accornero’s attorney Steve Weiss said he just received information about the case today.

He said his client did not violate her three years’ probation on the drug case for the past 2 1/2 years. Court records show Accornero was sentenced to three years’ probation on Feb. 23, 2009, when she was convicted of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud in February 2008. She also was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail.

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