School Worker Accused of Stealing 11,000 Cases of Chicken Wings in $1.5M Embezzlement Scheme: Prosecutors

Cook County Jail

Vera Liddell, 66, a food service director for the Harvey 125 school, was charged with felony continuing financial crimes enterprise and theft exceeding $1,000,000, also a felony, according to the Illinois State Attorney’s Office.

The Illinois State Attorney is crying fowl and says that a public school worker has been accused of stealing 11,000 cases of chicken wings in an $1.5 million embezzlement scheme over a 19-month period, according to reports.

Vera Liddell, 66, a food service director for Harvey 125 school, just outside Chicago, was charged with felony continuing financial crimes enterprise and theft exceeding $1,000,000, also a felony, according to state’s Attorney’s Office.

“The massive fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school,” according to a bond proffer obtained by Inside Edition Digital. “Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up.”

From July 2020 until February 2022, Liddell allegedly placed hundreds of unauthorized orders for food items – including 11,000 cases of chicken wings – through school district vendor Gordon Food Service, according to the state’s Attorney’s Office.  

The purchases were allegedly made separately from the legitimate orders made by the school district but Gordon Food Service believed all the purchases were authorized and billed the district for everything, prosecutors said.

The district paid the full bills including the unauthorized purchases, according to prosecutors.

In January 2022, the district business manager conducted a routine mid-year audit and discovered the food service department at the half-way mark of the school year was more than $300,000 over its annual budget, prosecutors said.

An investigation uncovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for massive quantities of chicken wings, prosecutors said.

The school district does not even serve chicken wings to students, as they contain bones, prosecutors said.

Surveillance video obtained by the Attorney’s Office allegedly showed that Liddell arrived at Gordon Food Service to pick up the orders and would leave with it in a district cargo van. The food, however, was never brought to the school or the students, prosecutors said.

Liddell, who has worked in the Harvey School District 152 for 11 years, according to her LinkedIn profile found by Inside Edition Digital, was discharged from jail after posting 10% of her $150,000 D bail bond, the Illinois State Attorney’s Office and Cook County Jail told Inside Edition Digital.  

Her next court appearance is on February 22, 2023, at the Sixth District Courthouse, the Attorney’s Office tells Inside Edition Digital.
Liddell is being represented by the office of the public defender. Inside Edition Digital has reached out to the public defender and has offered "no comment" on this story.

The office of the public defender says that Liddell has not yet entered a plea.

In a statement to Inside Edition Digital, Barbara Mason, interim superintendent of Harvey 125, says, “The district cannot comment at this time because of an ongoing investigation.  However, we are fully cooperating with the authorities regarding this matter.”

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