The finance and business manager of a nonprofit Santa Rosa charter school pleaded guilty today in Sonoma County Superior Court to felony grand theft and forgery charges. Sheila Accornero, 43, of Cloverdale was charged with embezzling 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. She was charged with two grand theft charges, five forgery charges and one count of illegal possession of prescription drugs. She pleaded guilty to one forgery charge, one grand theft charge and to possession of a controlled substance.
The prosecution is recommending she be sentenced Feb. 28 to five years and eight months in prison and has agreed to dismiss the remaining charges. The prosecution also is recommending Accornero pay $396,633.87 in restitution. Accornero is being held in the Sonoma County jail without bail for violating her probation for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud in February 2008. Ariyoshi said the theft and forgery occurred between December 2008 and Aug. 9, 2011 when Accornero was interviewed and arrested.
Accornero was hired by the school at 709 Davis St. in Santa Rosa in 2005, Ariyoshi said. Accornero allegedly took $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.
Larae Archibald, an investigator with the Sonoma County District attorney’s Office, said she received information about “suspicious financial activity” from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which tracks suspicious financial transactions. “I dug deeper and got bank records and it (the alleged embezzlement) appeared obvious to me,” Archibald said outside the courtroom this afternoon.
The school’s administrators were unaware of the missing money until detectives contacted them in August, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Mike 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.
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