Nia Community Public Charter School’s ex-director pleads guilty to embezzlement

November 13, 2013

The former executive director of a D.C. public charter school admitted in federal court Wednesday that she embezzled $29,000 in school funds, according to U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.’s office.

Monique S. Murdock, 44, also acknowledged using a government-issued purchase card to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards while working as director of an Army day-care center in Virginia, court records show.

Murdock, who entered a guilty plea to a charge of theft from a program receiving federal funds, is scheduled to be sentenced in February in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She faces six months to a year in prison and has agreed to make restitution payments to the Defense and Education departments.

Murdock’s attorney, Manuel J. Retureta, declined to comment Wednesday.

Murdock co-founded Southeast Washington’s Nia Community Public Charter School in 2006, and she served as its executive director until 2008, according to court documents. In that time, she used the school’s account to write five checks totaling $29,000 to a foster child in her care. She then transferred all but $100 of that money to an account in her name, the court documents show.

Murdock was fired from her post at Nia in November 2008, according to a wrongful termination suit she filed in 2009. The lawsuit was settled before the case went to trial, according to court records. Nia’s charter was later revoked by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which cited the school’s poor academic performance and failure to develop a curriculum.

Murdock went on to work for the Army’s Cody Child Development Center at Fort Myer, first as assistant director and, starting in 2010, as director.

Between February and December 2012, she used a government-issued purchase card to buy gift cards worth $11,773.92, according to a statement of offense Murdock signed this week. Those purchases from Wal-Mart and Target — for gift cards for International House of Pancakes and Applebee’s, among others — were not authorized, according to court documents.

Murdock was charged with the charter-school theft in January and has not been employed by the Army since May, an Army spokesman said. She was suspended from the Fort Myer day-care center last winter after allegations of its workers’ abusive behavior made headlines that December.

Surveillance cameras showed two employees dragging and pinching toddlers, prompting a review that said more than 30 employees had backgrounds that should have disqualified them from working with children.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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