OKLAHOMA CITY – A former Putnam City Schools employee was charged Thursday with seven felony counts of embezzlement for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments from parents for child care and fundraising programs.
Lea C. Diaz, 54, worked for the Putnam City School District for nearly 10 years and resigned this past summer, according to district officials.
In a probable cause affidavit, investigators say Diaz, of Oklahoma City, embezzled more than $76,000 over the span of seven years, from 2011 to 2017, while employed as the financial secretary at Coronado Heights Elementary School.
The investigation began in August 2017, shortly after Diaz resigned, according to Oklahoma City Police reports. Investigators allege that Diaz’ job as the school’s financial secretary required her to collect parents money for after-school child care and class fundraising projects, and then deposit the money into the school’s bank account.
The probable cause affidavit says Diaz would give parents separate receipts, depending on if the payment was in cash or check, deposit the checks into the bank account while keeping the cash payments “for her own personal gain.”
“It just makes me kind of upset that all my hard-earned money – because I went to school full-time, and I busted my butt – was going to help her family. And she was taking from my family,” said a Coronado Heights parent while waiting to pick up her children after the first day back since the holiday break.
“I’m in shock, because she was very — if it is who I think it is — she was a very, very nice lady,” said the mother, whose four children have attended the school over the years, two of them currently.
No taxpayer dollars were involved, however district officials say the money was raised by the school and students
“While those funds are not taxpayer dollars, they are just as meaningful in terms of providing opportunities and resources for students,” said Putnam City Schools Chief Communications Officer Steve Lindley in a statement to News 4. “We take this matter seriously and have cooperated with Oklahoma City Police as part of their investigation and will continue to do so in any way that we can.”
According to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office, an arrest warrant for Diaz has not yet been issued. News 4 went to the address listed for Diaz in the charging documents, however no one answered the door. It is not clear if she has an attorney.