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The former principal of a Boston area high school is facing federal charges for allegedly stealing nearly $40,000 in school funds to take lavish personal vacations to the island of Barbados.
Naia Wilson has been charged with one count of wire fraud for allegedly scheming to defraud Boston Public Schools of $38,806, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts said in a press release Tuesday.
Wilson, 60, was the principal of New Mission High School in Hyde Park just south of Boston from 2006 through 2019.
New Mission is a pilot school, meaning it has freedom to decide how to spend the lump sums per student it receives from Boston Public Schools.
In order to steal school funds, Wilson would have had to make a formal check request to Boston Public Schools’ external fiscal agent who was managing those funds in an outside bank account, prosecutors said.
Wilson did exactly this, prosecutors alleged, saying she repeatedly requested checks starting September 2016 and continuing until at least May 2019.
She requested that the checks be issued to other individuals, fraudulently endorsed the checks to herself, and deposited them into her personal back account, prosecutors said.
Wilson requested checks that she used to pay for two all-inclusive personal vacations to Barbados for Wilson and her friends in 2016 and 2018, including hotels and airfare, according to prosecutors.
Wilson has agreed to plead guilty and pay restitution and will appear in federal court in Boston soon on a date not yet announced.
If convicted, Wilson faces up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
The U.S. Attorney’s office announced the charges along with Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox and Boston Division FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Christopher DiMenna.
Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said that “protecting children” is one of the “very top priorities” of his office and “threats come in all forms.”
“We will not allow this type of gross abuse of authority and responsibility fly under the radar. Individuals who take advantage of public trust to line their pockets will be investigated and held accountable,” Levy said.
“Today’s charges should serve as a reminder to municipal workers everywhere that there are serious consequences for such shameful conduct, and it is the taxpayers they serve and answer to at the end of the day,” FBI agent Christopher DiMenna said.
Superintendent Mary Skipper, who has led Boston Public Schools since last year, said Tuesday that the district takes “a steward of public funds very seriously” and is committed to prioritizing students when spending its funds.
“Since these incidents, the Boston Public Schools has implemented additional internal protocols and procedures to prevent a situation like this from occurring again,” Skipper said.
New Mission High School serves about 260 students from grades 7 to 12.
The charges against Wilson follow a high-profile case last year of a principal embezzling school funds.
Bridget Coates, 48, the former principal of St. Thomas More Catholic School in Washington, D.C., was charged with wire fraud and eventually sentenced to 30 months in prison for embezzling $175,000.
Coates spent the stolen school funds on designer fashion from luxury brands and to help her qualify for a home mortgage loan, prosecutors said in August when she was sentenced.