A south suburban school worker stood accused Monday night in a bizarre scheme involving more than $1 million worth of stolen chicken wings.
Vera Liddell, 66, the former director of food services at Harvey School District 152, is accused of launching a bizarre embezzlement scheme in which she stole more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money in food, most of which was chicken wings.
According to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, the scheme took place between July 2020 and February 2022, as Liddell placed hundreds of unauthorized orders, including 11,000 cases of chicken wings, at the school district’s expense.
“The massive fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school,” court documents stated. “Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up.”
“The food was never brought to the school or provided to the students,” the document noted.
Prosecutors said officials learned of Liddell’s scheme after a routine audit was conducted by the district’s business manager in January 2022. Auditors discovered the school’s food service department had exceeded its annual budget by over $300,000 even though they were only halfway through the academic year.
“Upon closer review, she discovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for massive quantities of chicken wings, an item that was never served to students because they contain bones,” prosecutors shared.
Lidell has been charged with felony theft and continuing a financial crimes enterprise, prosecutors said. She was booked in the Cook County Jail on Jan. 26, and is scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 22.