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Former finance chief in Montgomery (Alabama) district pleads guilty to stealing $291,000 from school system

Sept. 14, 2023
Brenda Palmer was the district's interim chief financial officer when she carried out the fraudulent billing scheme between November 2017 and April 2019.

The former interim chief financial officer in the Montgomery (Ala.) school district has pleaded guilty to two ethics charges and two counts of lying in connection with bilking the school district out of more than $291,000. reports that Brenda Palmer's guilty plea came just before she was to go on trial on the charges.

Palmer was the interim chief financial officer for Montgomery Public Schools when she carried out the fraudulent billing scheme between November 2017 and April 2019.

Walter James, the former vice principal of JAG High School and Palmer’s accomplice in the scam, already had pleaded guilty to charges and is serving a five-year prison sentence.

James submitted fraudulent invoices from nearly a dozen sham companies that purported to provide the school district with books, professional development, and other goods or services. But both Palmer and James knew that no goods or services were provided to the district.

After James created the fake invoices with Palmer’s help, Palmer used her position as CFO to ensure she and James were paid without attracting attention.

When examiners with the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts began their yearly audit of the Montgomery school system in 2019, they requested supporting documents. Prosecutors said that instead of providing those check files, Palmer shredded them and said that she bypassed procedures because she just wanted to get vendors paid.

Attorney General Steve Marshall said prosecutors will be seeking prison time for Palmer “because of the gravity of Palmer’s crimes, her repeated lies, her attempt to influence James, and her refusal to accept responsibility until the day of trial."

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