Coruption at Rialto Unified School District runs deeper than reported

Here at Rialto Now we have been monitoring this story at a distance. Why? Because the people running Rialto Unified School District (RUSD) are corrupt money hungry attention seekers and they will step on whoever gets in their way or disagrees with them. Getting any School official to go on the record and be honest is like drawing water from a well in HELL.

With that being said RUSD teachers are beyond fearful of what or who could replace Dr. Cebrum when and if the RUSD Board decides he and his right hand man Wallace are to leave the district. Some of the worse RUSD administrators are feared to be on the short list of potential successors.

Read this article below written by the Daily Bulletin Staff and tell me if you still trust RUSD and its band of brothers:


RIALTO >> For more than eight years, a district accountant stole nearly one in every four dollars that passed through the Rialto Unified School District’s lunch money program, according to a forensic audit obtained by The Sun.

A lack of internal controls, including a security camera that was not in operation most of the time and shoddy record keeping, allowed Judith Oakes, the former longtime accountant for the school district’s nutritional services department, to allegedly steal more than $1.8 million from the district from July 11, 2005, to Aug. 6, 2013, according to the audit.

Further complicating things was a perception by school district employees that Oakes was untouchable because she had a personal relationship with school district Superintendent Harold Cebrun, according to the audit by Rancho Cucamonga-based Stewart Investigative Services Inc.

“Ms. Oakes was involved in an open personal relationship with the superintendent of the school district from 2010 to August 2013, which created a work environment wherein she was deemed unapproachable and could not be held accountable by her immediate superiors,” according to the audit summary.

Rialto police arrested Oakes, 49, of San Bernardino, on Aug. 7 at her place of work and subsequently charged her with eight felony counts of embezzlement and eight felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Fontana.

The case broke when Oakes’ supervisor, Cindi Stone, saw Oakes on a surveillance camera stuffing a bundle of $2,000 in $20 bills into her bra on Aug. 5 and Aug. 6. Stone notified district risk manager Derek Harris, who then called police, according to the audit and a search warrant affidavit.

Details of the criminal investigation were revealed in the forensic audit commissioned by the school district after Oakes’ arrest, a complete copy of which was obtained by The Sun on Friday via a Public Records Act request. It painted a picture of antiquated accounting procedures and lax oversight at the school district that allowed Oakes to allegedly steal thousands of dollars from the district on a weekly basis.

Oakes ramped up her suspected illegal activity in 2007. In one work week, from April 30 to May 4, Oakes allegedly stole $16,000, and discrepancies of $10,000 or more per week in that year were not uncommon, the audit shows.

Of the more than $8 million the district collected in student lunch money between July 2005 and August 2013, only $6.2 million was actually accounted for, a difference of more than $1.8 million, the amount Oakes is suspected of stealing.

The audit also found that cash collections and deposits were not compared to actual sales figures, and outstanding checks and deposits in transit to the bank were never reconciled. In addition, Oakes, not the clerk who actually counted the cash, was the one who handed off bank deposit slips to the armored car courier who transported the cash to the bank, implying that Oakes could have written cash amounts on the deposit slips that did not match those of the clerk who actually counted the cash.

A search of Oakes’ home turned up original deposit slips that had been replaced by Oakes and more than $34,000 in cash straps for various denominations. The cash straps are used in the money counting room at the school district to strap specific dollar amounts of specific denominations. The items were found in a large purse belonging to Oakes, according to the audit.

The environment Oakes worked in made it rather easy for her to commit her alleged crimes, according to the audit.

“The private office which was built for Ms. Oakes further assisted her embezzlement scheme by providing a private sanctuary in which she could safely take money from her top and put it in her purse and to also steal other monies without being seen by the office staff,” according to the audit.

As a 24-year district employee, Oakes became the trusted sole accountant of the nutritional services department’s funds.

Prior to the 2010-11 school year, lunch money collected from parents at the nutrition services department was sent to schools across the district to handle. But in the 2010-11 school year, a computerized point of sale system was installed in the nutritional services department that allowed the payments to be inputted electronically into student lunch accounts. Oakes is suspected of taking the money intended for those accounts, which was left in her mailbox in white envelopes by office clerks. Auditors suspect Oakes could have been taking up to $100 a week.

“The clerks who counted the money in the money room state it was not until after Ms. Oakes was arrested that anyone ever brought these white envelopes of money from parents into the money room to be counted,” according to the audit.

Oakes was also suspected of stealing cash payments made to the district by a pallet recycling business for broken, discarded pallets. The warehouse manager for the nutrition services department would turn the receipts for those payments in to Oakes, but the cash was never accounted for in deposit slips. Receipts from the pallet recycling business totaling $858.75 for 2012 and $737 for 2013 were found in Oakes’ desk, according to the audit.

Stewart Investigations made the following recommendations to the district:

• Either contract with a bank to provide cash counting services or have the clerks be responsible for cash counts and not have the accountant, or anyone who has access to the accounting system, participate in the cash counts.

• The nutrition services department should have two bank accounts — a receiving account with an appropriate interest amount, and a clearing account that is to be cleared down to zero at least every month. The rest of the cash would be moved to the cash in a county account.

• Any and all cash collections be receipted into the eTrition system so the accountant is assured all cash collections are in the system and reliable sales figures can be posted.

“The district has reviewed the audit recommendations and has implemented changes to improve our handling of procedures as it applies to checks and balances,” said district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri.

Cebrun’s attorney, Willie W. Williams, said Friday the information included in the audit is nothing Cebrun has not already disclosed to auditors and to the public in an October interview with The Sun.

“That’s absolutely consistent with what Dr. Cebrun has said to the press, Stewart Investigations and anyone else involved, and I think that underscores there was nothing nefarious going on where he would be concerned,” Williams said.

Williams, however, disputed the auditors’ determination as to how long the relationship between Cebrun and Oakes had occurred.

“(Cebrun) didn’t become acquainted with Ms. Oakes until the summer of 2011,” Williams said.

Cebrun admitted during his October interview to kissing and hugging Oakes but maintained the relationship and physical contact was strictly of a platonic, not intimate, nature.

As police have already said, the auditors noted in their report that there was no evidence of Cebrun or anyone else employed by the school district being directly involved in Oakes’ suspected illegal activity.

Cebrun’s chief of staff, James Wallace, whom Cebrun said was also a friend of Oakes who frequently accompanied them on outings, told investigators he had been in contact with Oakes a number of times after her arrest and considered himself to be “her unofficial counselor,” according to the audit.

Cebrun and Wallace remain on paid administrative leave, Jafri said.

“The district’s interest with respect to any relationship the superintendent and Ms. Oakes may have had is how the relationship impacted the work environment,” Jafri said, “and that issue is a confidential employment matter that the Board of Education continues to evaluate.”

Rialto makes national headlines over Blck Friday fights & injuries

I don’t know about the rest of you but I had no desire to spend my thanksgiving energies on black Friday brick and mortar sales. Unless you are one of the more than 5 thousand that converged on the Rialto Wal-mart black Friday sale. This blog has time and time again warned the community and our local government on relying on Wal-mart to provide quality service and an appropriate level of security. Rialto has never been a retail hub so our city is less than experienced with the issues that mass retail brings.

Rialto police vehicles sit outside the Rialto Walmart Thursday night after fights occurred at the store. Police said there were three fights shortly after 7 p.m. at the store at 1610 S. Riverside Ave., two of which were inside over merchandise and the third outside that caused injury to an officer. Will Lester – Staff Photographer

Rialto police vehicles sit outside the Rialto Walmart Thursday night after fights occurred at the store. Police said there were three fights shortly after 7 p.m. at the store at 1610 S. Riverside Ave., two of which were inside over merchandise and the third outside that caused injury to an officer. Will Lester – Staff Photographer

So when 5 thousand plus people were lined up and waiting for the Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving night Wal-mart officials made a major cardinal sin by deviating from their original goal of opening at 8pm. People in line said that was when the tension began. Lori Woods of Fontana said “When the line started moving earlier than expected people started pushing and cutting, no one was watching or keeping the peace until police arrived”.

The San Bernardino Sun reported another woman made a similar statement. “We were fine waiting and didn’t feel scared until the fight broke out,” said Marta Vargas of Rialto. “The police jumped in quickly and took care of the problem.” This man reported the fights “We saw a man and a woman fighting inside over a flat screen TV,” said Jamal Jones, 56, of Rialto. “This is my first Black Friday and my last. The crowds are pushy and people are downright rude.”

Wal-mart officials would like for you to believe that they care and have things under control with this statement they released to the media. “The fight at the Rialto store was an unfortunate and isolated incident to an otherwise very safe event,” corporate spokeswoman Betsy Harden said. “Providing our customers with the best and safest shopping experience is always our top priority.”

Sadly though You Tube and National media tells a different story of Wal-mart store all over the country failing to offer appropriate levels of security and protection. Many mall and mass shopping centers that do offer appropriate levels of security and safety rarely have incidents and they don’t raise to the level of multiple brawls. Even Lisa Ann Walter on KFI AM 640 has a weekly segment on the epic fails that follow the popular discount retailer Wal-mart.

So one Wal-mart incident took a dozen police officers (overtime) two agencies helicopter coverage ($$$$$) a police officer with a broken wrist (off work with pay and reduced what this officer can do with his family).

So join me in thanking Wal-mart for once again failing to offer any real level of security or safety. Also don’t forget your city is going to allow the same people the right to open an even bigger Super Wal-mart as well as add a Target Store in the near future.

On a even less the fortunate note it seems the most dangerous city in the Inland Empire can call the Highland Wal-mart a San Bernardino victory as stated here in the SB Sun article:

Not every city had issues though, San Bernardino police said they haven’t experienced any problems with Walmart stores on Black Friday the past four years.

“Our partnership and coordination with Wal-mart has truly prevented a lot of the problems that you’ve seen elsewhere,” said San Bernardino police Sgt. Travis Walker.