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Former school district administrator pleads guilty to spending more than $230,000 on personal online shopping using district credit cards

By Jennifer Henderson, CNN

A former administrator for the Little Rock School District (LRSD) in Arkansas pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Wednesday after spending more than $230,000 in school district funds for her personal online shopping, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

From August 2014 to August 2018, Karen James spent more than $4,000 on a recliner, bath rugs and other home goods from Wayfair; more than $27,000 on 83 unauthorized purchases through PayPal; more than $199,200 on 2,462 items from Amazon including housewares, makeup, clothing, gift cards, pet products and knitting materials for a total of $230,635.86 in fraudulent purchases, according to the release.

James used two LRSD credit cards, funded by state and federal grants, that were issued to her to make purchases for early childhood programs within the district, the release states. As part of the credit card agreements, James had to sign stating the cards could not be used for gifts cards or personal purchases and items could not be shipped to her house, it adds.

The district discovered in August 2018 that James had been submitting “fabricated receipts and false transaction logs,” according to the release. LRSD obtained original receipts from vendors to verify the actual purchases and found many of the purchases were sent to her house, the release adds.

James’ plea agreement will require her to pay $230,635.86 in restitution to LRSD, according to the release.

James will be sentenced at a later date by US District Court Judge Kristine Baker.

Erin Cassinelli, an attorney for James, said Friday, “We have no comment at this time.”

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