Employee accused of stealing $1.5 million in chicken wings from school district

HARVEY, Ill. — The food service director of a school district outside of Chicago is facing charges after investigators said she stole more than a million dollars’ worth of food from the district.

Vera Liddell was the food service director for Harvey School District 152 for more than 10 years and was charged with theft and operating a criminal enterprise, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

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Liddell was tasked with placing food orders with Gordon Food Services, a main supplier for the district. Prosecutors told the Sun-Times that for the 19 months from July 2020 to February 2022, Liddell placed orders for chicken wings and billed the district but kept the food.

The food was ordered and delivered during a time when students were being educated remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and were not allowed to attend class inside school buildings, The Associated Press reported. During that time, the district provided meals for students and their parents to pick up.

Prosecutors said that Liddell ordered more than 11,000 cases of chicken wings from the supplier and picked up the orders in a district cargo van, but never took the food to the school or gave it to students, WGN-TV reported.

Prosecutors told WGN-TV that chicken wings are never served to children at the school because they contain bones.

Prosecutors said the orders for chicken wings were made separately from the district’s legitimate orders, but that the district was still charged for them, CBS News reported.

The district began its investigation after a routine audit found the district was $300,000 over its annual food service budget despite only being halfway through the academic year, the AP reported.

The district’s interim superintendent, Lela Bridges, said she could not comment due to the ongoing investigation, but that the district was fully cooperating with authorities, the Sun-Times reported.

Prosecutors said it was not clear what Liddell did with the food, CBS News reported.

Liddell was taken to the Cook County Jail on a $150,000 bond.

The district is comprised of five schools serving 1,600 children, WGN-TV reported.

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