Former Chiles Teacher Pleads Guilty To Grand Theft

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February 18, 2014, 11:20pm

A former Leon County school teacher who pled guilty to grand theft will spend a year in jail and pay back thousands of dollars in restitution to the school system.

Tammy Bennett was accused of stealing money from Chiles High School where she was a teacher and worked on the yearbook program.

Investigators said she would make up reimbursements for herself that ended up being false claims, such as: travel, equipment purchases and supply purchases.

Her attorney said she was guilty for some of the false reimbursements, but said some of the missing money came from a bookkeeping mistake.

Auditors estimate she cost the school district close to $200,000. At her sentencing Tuesday afternoon, the judge sentenced Bennett to 11 months and 29 days in jail and ordered her to pay back an amount just short of $157,000 between Leon County Schools and a yearbook insurance company.

"We're relieved to finally have resolution in this case and a satisfactory verdict as well as relief for the schools, so that they can regain some of the money that is well-needed out there to continue the many programs they have," said John Hunkiar, chief of safety, security and emergency management for Leon County Schools.

The judge ordered Bennett to get a job and start paying back the money owed within 30 days after her release from the Leon County jail.

August 8, 2013, 10:30am

Tammy Bennett, the Chiles High School teacher accused of embezzling in 2011, pled guilty this morning to grand theft, which is a second degree felony.

She will be sentenced some time in the next four to six weeks.

She was charged with embezzling more than $100,000 in 2011.

November 22, 2011, 10:30am

A trial date has been scheduled for Tammy Bennett. Bennett is the Chiles High School teacher accused of embezzling more than $100,000.

Bennett was present for the first time in this morning's court hearing. Her attorney told the judge that it would be impossible to be ready for trial before June. Judge Hankinson commented that that is a long time from now, but granted the extra time anyway.

The judge set the trial for June 11, 2012. He also set pre-trial court dates for May and June.

October 3, 2011, 10:20am

There has been a delay in the status hearing for Chiles High School teacher Tammy Bennett. Bennett was arrested for embezzling more than $150,000.

No new date has been scheduled.

October 3, 2011

A teacher from Chiles High School heads back to court this morning to see where her case stands. Tammy Bennett was arrested for embezzling more than $150,000. She is accused of making up trips for students, but her attorney says it was a bookkeeping mistake. She is on administrative leave from her teaching position.

August 30, 2011, 5:38pm

The Leon County School District has policies in place to make sure money doesn't go missing.

Tammy Bennett, a teacher from Chiles high school, was arrested for embezzling more than $150,000 dollars. Now people are wondering what safeguards exist.

District policy number 6.3 reads " All checks are to be signed by two persons, the principal and one designee, excluding the bookkeeper. Pre numbered checks must be used, and adequate supporting documentation should be maintained."

For a closer look at the policies click the link below.

August 29, 2011, 5:38pm

A Chiles High School teacher accused of embezzlement has posted bond and is now out of jail.

Tammy Bennett's arrest is still the buzz in school hallways, but her attorney said it's bad bookkeeping, not a crime.

The affidavit shows that Bennett made up trips for students, like a trip to Los Angeles, California.

In the past these expenses went unnoticed, but this year Leon County Schools changed its auditing system and noticed the suspicious activity during a routine spot check.

Tammy Bennet has worked in the school system for more than 20 years. Her attorney said she is not in the wrong.

Dean LeBoeuf said, "Chiles High School has a very, very poor bookkeeping system, and accounting system. And we're confident that when all of the facts come out, you'll see Tammy Bennett is not guilty of these charges."

Along with Bennett, the bookkeeper, Debbie Kimbro, has been put on administrative leave during the investigation.

"Following the disposition of the case with the State Attorney's office, Leon County Schools will undergo a full administrative review of the entire case," said Leon County Schools Spokesperson Chris Petley.

That review will include everyone at Chiles High School from Principal Alan Cox to staff.

Bennett is on administrative leave from Chiles High School--no word yet on how long that will last...However, The case has been turned over to the state attorney.

August 27, 2011, 12am

Leon County school officials say a trusted teacher is behind bars for stealing money from Chiles High School.

Leon County School officials say Tammy Bennett was arrested for Grand Theft and Executing an Organized Scheme to Defraud. (8/26)

Bennett allegedly filed false reimbursement forms for expenses that didn't exist.

School officials say they only caught her because of an internal audit that turned up 'irregularities.'

Explains the schools' Chief of Safety and Security, John Hunkiar, "It appears that the items submitted for reimbursements for travel and equipment purchases that there were items that were not actually purchased and travel that did not actually occur."

Still, parents of Chiles High students say they're not too concerned about what this means for the kids.

Aaron Clark is the school's Athletic Director. He also has a daughter who's in the 11th grade. He says his daughter hasn't mentioned hearing anything about the embezzling.

Says Clark, "I think it's been contained. I think [Principal]Cox and the rest of the administration have done a good job, and I have the utmost confidence in them as a parent to run the school and do what they need to do."

Chiles Principal Alan Cox says he "hates" to have the high school's otherwise sterling reputation sullied by the "bad apple."

School officials say things like this generally do not happen in Leon County schools; however, that's the reason they have the audits in place

Principal Cox says he wants 'every penny' of the $150,000 repaid.

He says yearbooks will be printed as usual despite the thefts.

August 26, 2011, 3pm

LEON COUNTY SCHOOLS RELEASE --- Chiles High School Teacher Tammy Bennett was arrested for Grand Theft and Executing an Organized Scheme to Defraud totaling at least $150,000. Internal audit findings surrounding the yearbook program led to a criminal investigation at Chiles High School.

While this matter has been under investigation, Ms. Bennett has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome. Leon County Schools will initiate termination proceedings immediately and will be seeking full restitution.

Earlier this month, a Leon County School's spokesperson said they were conducting an internal investigation of an incident at Chiles High School involving an employee. No other details were given at the time.

Tallahassee, Florida -- Leon County School's spokesperson says they are conducting an internal investigation of an incident at Chiles High School involving an employee.

They would not disclose the nature of the investigation, and said they will be releasing more information next week.

WCTV will be covering the story, and will post details as soon as they are made available.

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