Portola Valley Schools Foundation defrauded of $182,500, deputies say

An investigation has turned up seven bad checks, a total of $182,500, written this fall against an investment account for the Portola Valley Schools Foundation, according to a Dec. 9 report from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

The checks, written between early September and early November 2013, transferred money from the foundation's Charles Schwab account into a JP Morgan Chase account at an unknown location, deputies said.

"It is so disheartening that a crime such as this has been perpetrated against the Foundation," said Superintendent Lisa Gonzales in an emailed statement. "I am confident that the authorities will soon identify the person or persons responsible, and that the investigation will bring all relevant details to light very soon."

The checks were written out to "Eye For Design LLC" with a mailing address in Monroe, Connecticut, deputies said.

The incident has a reporting date of Nov. 25. The Sheriff's Office typically issues crime reports on a weekly basis; an incomplete report on an individual case can delay publication.

The checks were pre-printed with the foundation's name misspelled and without the foundation's address, but did include the correct account and routing numbers on the bottom of the checks, deputies said.

Investigators from Charles Schwab and U.S. Postal Police are working on the case, deputies said.

The news comes as the Portola Valley School District is in the midst of recovering from an embezzlement of nearly $101,000 by former superintendent Tim Hanretty, who is serving a two-year term in state prison.

When the cost of the investigation into his crimes is included, Mr. Hanretty's actions set the district back by $182,000, nearly $121,000 of which he had repaid, according to an Almanac report in September.

"The many volunteers of the Portola Valley Schools Foundation have worked tirelessly for almost two decades in support of the students and staff at Ormondale and Corte Madera Schools," Ms. Gonzales said in her email. "Especially over the past two challenging years, the support of the foundation has been instrumental in ensuring that key programs and staffing levels have continued uninterrupted, and our students have received the best education possible."


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Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Dec 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Portola Valley School district needs to get someone in there, auditing,who knows what they are doing. Money seems to just "disappear" in that district

Like this comment
Posted by Detective
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Dec 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Easy case to solve. Checks made out to shop in Conn. that specializes in human hair extensions from overseas. I'd suggest will start dna testing of all the kids/parents to see who's hair dna does not match match thier own and we can start to hone in on the perps. Start with the foundation board of directors. Cops can take samples at next meeting. Can anyone make up such a story? Check out the website where the money went. Amazing!

Web Link

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Posted by Avoidable
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Certainly, the PV District needed better financial controls. It probably now has them.

The wake up call is for the privately managed PV School Foundation. I realize its volunteer operated, but they need to either place diligent people in the Treasurer position or outsource that function to an accountant. It should be somebody's business to be reviewing the bank statements each month. It seems negligent that this fraud could go undetected from Sep to Nov!

Other Foundations should take note. Expensive lesson courtesy of Portola Valley folks. Let's hope Menlo Park and Las Lomitas Foundations are better stewards of donated funds.

Like this comment
Posted by meg
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm

PVSD now has very good controls, as does the independent PV Schools Foundation. This was a case of bank fraud for which there are insurance and institutional remedies. No one would blame individuals if their bank account was hacked, so why blame a small and loving charity. And by the way, who authorized the leak of financial information to this paper. There have been no public disclosures of this information. The criminals are a half a continent away and the money will be restored. This would not be news if it were not for the fact that people love to see others worked over. Shame on the Almanac for posting this non story and shame on the gossip who put the information out.

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