On Monday (Jan. 30), a Chicago food service director was charged with stealing $1.5 million worth of food — mostly chicken wings, according to court documents obtained by local TV station WGN.
Vera Liddell, 66, worked for Harvey School District 152 for over a decade. The court documents state that she ordered more than 11,000 cases of chicken wings from the school district’s food vendor, Gordon Food Service, and then picked up the order in a district cargo van. Liddell allegedly started stealing while students were learning remotely but the district was still providing meals for pickup.
“The massive fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school,” a prosecutor at Liddell’s bond hearing said. “Even though the children were learning remotely, the school district continued to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up.”
According to CBS Chicago, prosecutors stated that the purchases Liddell made were separate from the legitimate orders made by the school district.Gordon Food Service believed that all of the purchases were authorized and the district was billed for everything.
In January of 2022, the district business manager conducted a routine mid-year audit and discovered that the food service department was more than $300,000 over its annual budget with the school year only about half over, according to prosecutors. The manager discovered signed invoices for "massive quantities of chicken wings, which is an item that was never served to students because they contain bones."
"The district cannot comment at this time because of an ongoing investigation. However, we are fully cooperating with the authorities regarding this matter," District 152 Interim Supt. Lela Bridges said in a statement.