City School Employee Fired Over Death Hoax

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Usually it’s the students who make excuses to get out of school. Joan Barnett, a parent coordinator at the Manhattan High School of Hospitality Management, concocted a complex hoax to get out of work.

Barnett had one of her daughters call to inform the school that her sister, Barnett’s other daughter, had suffered a heart attack in Costa Rica. Later in the day she called to tell the school that her daughter had died and that the family would be traveling to Costa Rica for the funeral.

Barnett then faxed a forged death certificate to the school to ensure that she would qualify for bereavement time off.

The elaborate scam allowed Barnett to enjoy two and-a-half weeks off in Costa Rica in March 2010.

But suspicion arose when a school official noticed inconsistencies in the font used on the death certificate. Working with Costa Rican officials, investigators determined that the death certificate actually belonged to a man who had died in 2005.

The school then found out that Barnett had booked her flight to Costa Rica three weeks before her daughters supposed death.

When confronted with the forgery evidence, Barnett insisted the death certificate was real and that her daughter “died of a heart condition,” according to the Daily News.

As a result of the scheme Barnett was fired, she also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for forging the death certificate.

What do you think of the elaborate scam? Let us know in our comments section below…

  • Ellie Light

    I’ll bet she & her dead daughter used a forged birth certificate to vote for OBama too……

    • DEE


    • chrissy

      how sad is it that you can be so racist smh tsk tsk oh well he’s your president get over it

  • Jess

    Here is a map. I know some people can’t use the internet for research purposes.,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&biw=1258&bih=1019&pdl=500&wrapid=tljp1326270600393018&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl

    • Ellie Light

      typical Union Slimebag — now people know why taxes are so high to pay for these Union trash to scam the system parent coordinator what the heck is that — a 100,000.00 a year Union Job????

  • 70119 lady

    Outrageous, but I am not really surprised. I assume as a school employee this woman gets time off in the summer and plenty of it. To fabricate something like this for some trip that could have waited proves that she is either mentally ill or had no regard for her daughter. I feel bad that her daughter has this deadbeat for a role model. I hope her name is in every school system in the country so that no one hires her. I hope she is relegated to scrubbing toliets.

  • Ray


  • J9

    what exactly is a parent coordinator???? This is why our school taxes are out of control. Sickening

    • Jay Teske


  • Geoff

    Costa Rica is not an island….how does this incompetence make it into the newspaper?

    • confusedeasily

      Regarding incompetence… you mean the newspaper or Costa Rica being an insland? As far as Costa being an island….that works for me.

    • Ray


    • Ted

      @Geoff…Who said Costa Rica was an island?

      • confusedeasily

        Dang! I thought Costa Rica was a state. You sure it isn’t an Island-State?

  • TC

    I have a co-worker that took bereavement leave claiming to go out of town for the funeral of a close family member, only to stick her foot in her mouth a few weeks later and I know now she never attended the funeral or went out of town. I had to cancel my vacation time for her little scheme.

  • Barry Doucette

    This woman is a thief and a liar. You call in sick a for a day or 2. Bereavement for a week at most if you have to travel. I wonder where this parasite will land next to steal more money from an employer.We ought to deport her butt back to Costa Rica where she obviously belongs.

    • KeyWester

      Why do you assume that just because her sister was supposed to be in Costa Rica that this lady is from there? Lots of U.S. citizens move there. It’s considered a good place to reitre.

  • hw

    Why didn’t I think of that. Perfect scam; yet it bgins to unrvel.

  • Amanda

    I am sure everyone has made up an excuse as to why they have to miss work/school/social engagement. However, why on earth would someone lie about something as serious as their daughter dying of a heart attack? I once lied about a flat tire to avoid dinner with a friend, and a few days later I actually got a flat. It is times like this that I hope for her, and her daughters sake that karma does not exist.

  • john

    Sounds like a lot of effort to go away for 2 weeks. maybe she sould have used all that energy to be a better teacher????

    • Ellen

      She was not a teacher, she was a parent coordinator

  • island time

    I had no problem understanding the article. I say life is too short. Im glad the family had a great vacation.

  • RoyAllen

    PS bc your an idiot

    • Mike

      Perhaps if YOU had paid more attention in high school, you wouldn’t confuse “your” with “you’re.”

  • RoyAllen

    I guess working 180 days a year,with allthe holidays off,wasn’t enough for this low life wench…….she should be fired,she earned it !

  • bc

    since when is forging a death certificate of another country subject to American laws?

    • Kate

      When it constitutes fraud in this country.

  • emma

    It would have been easier to take vacation or personal time.

  • DanTe

    She got 2 1/2 weeks for bereavement time off?

  • Stupid america....

    It is sad to see people abusing the system. BUT IT IS ALSO SAD THAT CBS NEW YORK, is reporting that “the family would be traveling to the ISLAND”. PEOPLE!!!!!! COSTA RICA IS NOT ON AN ISLAND!!!!!!! IGNORANCE AT ITS HIGHEST!!!! This is why we are called “stupid america”. Costa Rica is north of Panama in Central America….

    • chkm8

      stupid – really?. CBS was reporting the family member: “Later in the day she called to tell the school that the sister had died and that the family would be traveling to the island for the funeral.” Reads to me the teacher and her family do not know their geography.

    • Easy

      those are the words of Barnett (as relayed by the school) not of the reporter… and Costa Rica does have outlying islands…she probably went to Tortuga…

      • KeyWester

        If someone is going to Tortuga, they say they are going to Tortuga, not Costa Rica.

    • Ray

      and where does it say Costa Rica is an island. Stupid American fits

  • King Zohan

    The neighbor called to say the dog was sick and the mother with parents went to Bermuda for the uncles wedding

  • Jerry

    Character integrity as well as morality are disappearing rapidly, regardless ,we should punish severely those that can be so unconscionable? So many would give anything for this job. To have her family conspire w/ her show the entire familys ability to be so low and immoral?

    • MsKarenL

      You’ve made the most important point about this whole unsettling story, Jerry. Think of what her daughter will become as a member of society with such a despicable parent as a role model. She’ll probably be siphoning off money from her future employers. Or trying to stage an accident on their premises in order to file a lawsuit. The mother will end up on welfare (now unemployable) and the taxpayers foot the bill…yet again!! Man o’ man – as a nation we are sliding faster and further into the depths of depravity than I thought possible.

  • Former Govt employee

    Moron, threw away a government pension because she wanted to visit Costa Rica for a vacation. Well, lady, your on permanent vacation now. Hopefully you will lose your cushy benefits because of your own stupidity.

  • jpohara

    was it her daughter or her sister…oh, and P.S. costa rica is NOT an island

    • Easy

      Costa Rica does have outlying islands…

      • chupas

        So does the US and you don’t hear anyone calling the US an island.

        • farmits

          We do hear a number of stupid people making a big deal over nothing though, don’t we?

          • MsKarenL

            It IS a big deal, farmits. These kinds of repeated displays of stupidity about basic geography continues to lower the global level of respect for America. 5th graders in India probably know more global geography than we do. It’s the same with basic English. Every time people justify such ingorance and look the other way – it just gets worse. But, I guess such low standards are A-o.k. with you.

      • Fritz

        That’s right! Isle Nublar where the dinos roam! :op It’s off the coast of the island of Costa Rica! Right next to the Penisula of , um.. what is that place called?…

    • educate america

      Exactly it is not an Island. Isn’t is sad to see this kind of mistake coming from the press????

  • LU

    Sister, aunt… either way.. REALLY STUPID.~~~ Now she’s unemployed.
    I don’t understand people anymore.

  • kelly

    what happened to people just calling in sick???

  • Tom Iacona

    read closer people, her daughter called to say her sister had a heart attack, not her aunt. The article is consistent yet a bit hard to understand, I had to go back and read the paragrapgh myself.

  • nancy

    CBS News should proofread their news. It states at the beginning that her sister died, but at the end of the story it’s the daughter. Very confusing.

  • help me understand

    im confused first it was forging her Sisters death certificate…than towards the end it saids her sister?

    “When confronted with the forgery evidence, Barnett insisted the death certificate was real and that her daughter “died of a heart condition,” according to the Daily News.”

    • Erwin

      This is one of those examples where language has its limit. Paragraph two stated that:
      “Barnett had one of her daughters call to inform the school that HER sister had suffered a heart attack…”

      The “HER” here refers to one of the daughters, not Barnett.

    • doc in NJ

      the mother had the “living” daughter call the school to say her sister had died.

    • explain

      I contacted CBS news with same issue and they have corrected the story this is what they emailed me

      “Thank you for your feedback. The article says the daughter called her mother (the woman who was fired) to say that her sister (the sister of the daughter making the call — the woman’s other daughter) had the heart attack. So the sister of the sister making the call is the woman’s other daughter.
      The article is correct, but I can see where the wording is a bit confusing, so I will edit the copy.We take pride in our work and report the facts as they are presented every time we post something online. There are times when we will post information that is incorrect-either from an incorrect source or human error, but in this case, the copy is correct.
      Thank you for taking the time to contact me and express your concerns. And thank you for visiting”

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