Former School Employee Pleads Guilty to Theft
May 9, 2014—Former Lake Ridge Schools business manager James Huddleston pleaded guilty this week to one charge of felony theft and one charge of tax evasion. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Huddleston opened a bank account in the school corporation’s name without the organization’s knowledge and used the account to divert approximately $134,054 for personal use. Huddleston did not claim the stolen money on his tax return, resulting in the second charge. Huddleston was indicted in March and signed a plea agreement April 23. Under that arrangement, Huddleston agreed to plead guilty in exchange for the government recommending that the court sentence him to the minimum prison sentence allowable.
The first charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The second charge has a maximum sentence of 5 years and a $100,000 fine. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for Huddleston once a probation officer has completed a pre-sentencing report.
In February of 2013, Lake Ridge Schools announced a budget deficit of over $800,000 for the year, and began making plans to close one of the district’s elementary schools in order to save money.