ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In New Jersey, money that should have gone to feed hungry kids may have ended up in greedy pockets and criminal charges were filed on Monday.
The president of the Elizabeth Board of Education along with the spouses of two other high-ranking school employees are being accused of stealing from the free lunch program for underprivileged students.
Police said for the last five years, 46-year-old Marie Munn, the board president, lied about her income so her two kids could eat free. She was arrested at her home Monday morning.
“They have to be fired because that’s not a good example for the community, for the children, for anyone,” parent Jose Cotto told CBS 2’s Diana Rocco.
Angela Lucio, the ex-wife of a former school principal, and Peter Abitanto, the husband of the head custodian, are also charged with forging their applications — allegedly stealing more than $7,000 from the program.
“Obviously we’re disappointed when these stories end up in the newspaper and we’re going to do our best to act in a very prudent and efficient manner,” Assistant Board Secretary Donald Goncalves said.
The school board said they have now changed their policy and the money has been paid back to the program, but for the community, it’s not enough.
“Resign immediately because they have violated the public trust,” said parent James Carey.
“This is an injustice, this is illegal. We’re outraged, we’re outraged for the children,” said community leader Rev. Haneef Rashada.
With more than 19,000 students participating in the free school lunch program, community leaders are calling for an audit of the entire system. If convicted, the three parents could face up to 5 years in prison and thousands in fines.
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