Zulema Andrews, treasurer of the Saddleback Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, has admitted embezzling an estimated $6,084.63 of the Saddleback PTO’s funds, according to a police report obtained by InMaricopa.com.
Andrews conducted a number of unauthorized transactions – including debit card purchases and withholding funds from deposits – dating from early April 10 through Sept. 14.
The main incidents, however, involve thousands of dollars of cash used by the PTO to purchase yearbooks and from a yo-yo fundraiser.
Andrews was not arrested but the case is currently being reviewed by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.
Parent-teacher organizations are independent organizations from the school district, though they raise funds for schools through their own events. As such, the school district cannot press charges against Andrews for the theft.
According to the report, Andrews told officers she was in desperate financial circumstances and used the stolen funds to pay for food and bills, at one point withdrawing funds from the PTO’s account to stave off an eviction notice with a cashier’s check.
Andrews was confronted Sept. 18 by police at City Hall, where she was employed as a customer service representative for the city clerk’s office.
Police began investigating the incident after Andrews, two days earlier, confessed stealing the money to Felicia Williams, Saddleback Elementary School principal.
Williams, who is not directly involved with the PTO, reported the theft to Superintendent Steve Chestnut who in turn reported it to the Maricopa Police.
Andrews did not know the police had been contacted when they came to interview her.
The money spent through unauthorized debit transactions include charges at Fry’s Marketplace, fast food restaurants, convenience stores and Walmart.
Other charges include Zazzle.com, a company that imprints pop culture designs or custom logos on mugs, messenger bags and the like, a PayPal transaction identified as “Crafty” and the Hobby Lobby.
Andrews reportedly decided to confess because the PTO owed $3,108.12 to Lifetouch, the yearbook company, and she had spent the funds.
The company had sent a second past due notice.
When the first past due notice arrived in June, Andrews first “lied to (Valerie Gregory, PTO president) that the check had cleared.”
When the check to Lifetouch bounced, Andrews reportedly “tried to gather up the money” to send a check but could not.
She later showed a falsified balance statement showing a cleared check.
In August, the school sold yo-yos for five days for “The NED Show.”Andrews admitted using $1,000 cash to pay an eviction notice and never deposited the funds into the PTO account.
At a Sept. 7 PTO meeting, “(Andrews) told them what the balance was supposed to be at that point rather than the actual amount,” according to the police report.
Andrews said her husband had gone to Montana for work but “it did not go as planned,” said the report.
Her parents had moved in with her and her husband and children to help pay the bills. However, Andrews’ mother had a kidney transplant and ultimately her parents could not help financially.
“(Andrews) stated she was trying to cover all the expenses alone and was struggling and made a very wrong decision,” the report said. “(Andrews) said she was embarrassed, humiliated, was sorry … she did not want to get evicted or have her electricity shut off and her husband did not know.”
She also told officers she had sold two of her husband’s guns for $800 to raise the money to pay the stolen funds back.
The $800 Andrews claimed to have deposited shortly before confessing was not reflected on bank statements obtained by police.
Andrews said she has not taken money from the city, where her drawer is counted every night, and no problems have been reported.
She resigned Oct. 8, effective immediately, City Clerk Vanessa Bueras said Wednesday.
The police report said Andrews has not been previously arrested and had no warrants.