White-collar crimes often come with particularly severe penalties because they are considered violations of trust, especially when government employees or public officials are involved. These crimes are usually felonies and bring prison time and fines with conviction. One famous – some say infamous – school principal could be facing such a fate after recent allegations of fraud by New York’s Department of Education.

Marcella Sills, principal of Public School 106 in Far Rockaway, Queens, was fired from her job in February and has now been accused of taking pay while not working, essentially defrauding the department of funds. The principal gained mostly negative publicity for her barebones budget that left her school without books to meet the common core curriculum, no art or gym classes, no special education classes for students with learning disabilities and no nurse’s office. The spartan budget led critics to call PS 106 the “School of No.”

For nine years, Sills allegedly arrived at work two to three hours late, left school early and without official notice, kept no timecards and coerced subordinates into lying about her time and her whereabouts. In 2011, she reportedly claimed $2,900 in overtime without submitting proof that she had earned the extra pay. Despite a complaint filed by school employees, the Department of Education apparently conducted an investigation only recently. Because of her tenured position, the principal is allowed an administrative hearing and still could receive her salary of more than $128,000 while she awaits trial. In the meantime, Sills has been assigned to administrative duties, although it is not clear what work or what duties she will perform.

The stakes are high for anyone facing fraud accusations and other charges of white-collar crime. That is why someone facing such charges should work to clear his or her name by presenting an aggressive defense.

Source: The New York Post, “‘School of No’ principal accused of fraud,” Susan Edelman, May 25, 2014