A Prince William County elementary school principal who embezzled thousands of dollars on a school credit card was sentenced to a lengthy but suspended prison term and four years of probation on Thursday, according to prosecutors.
Jenny Georgina Enriquez-de Bermant, 48, received a prison sentence of 10 years, all of which was suspended by Circuit Court Judge Richard B. Potter. She received four years of probation, according to prosecutors.
In May, the school system’s internal auditor helped uncover the illegal use of the credit cards after Kilby Elementary School was missing an iPhone, an iPad2 and two 32-inch televisions, according to court records. Authorities found that Enriquez-de Bermant had spent about $8,500 on credit cards as well as solicited a contract to a friend, against county procurement procedures, according to court documents and prosecutors.
The former principal told police she wanted to provide holiday gifts for her children.
She has already paid $14,773 in restitution, court records say.
School officials have pointed to the school principal’s case as a sign that internal controls are working.
Separately, an audit of Potomac Middle School revealed overspending and lack of proper approval for credit card charges including 30 separate restaurant bills totaling $14,689. Four of the meals exceeded $1,500 each; the largest restaurant charges were budgeted under “travel” and included an On the Border meal in September 2009, and more than $1,600 for staff meals at Carrabba’s, one in May 2010 and another in August 2010, according to credit card statements.
The school system considered the majority of the charges appropriate — they were spent for school purchases — but officials are working to address the overspending and the fact that many of the purchases lacked proper approval. School administrators are allowed to expense large meals if conducting school business, officials said, as long as the expenses are properly approved.
Benita M. Stephens, Potomac Middle’s principal at the time of the charges and the administrator who oversaw the school’s budget, was replaced. She has resigned from the school system, said school spokesman Philip Kavits.
The school system is also increasing the number of audits it does of school credit cards. The schools system’s internal auditor, Vivian McGettigan, will increase audits from 10 to 15 schools per year.
That plan means McGettigan will take a closer look at the 700 or so credit cards the school system has. Credit cards are “high risk due to the after-the-fact review of purchases and the reliance on individual card holders to ensure that items purchased are appropriate,” McGettigan wrote.
School officials say they have encountered few cases of administrators abusing county credit cards and that most use them judiciously and allow some flexibility for purchasing in the large school system.