FBI: Former Boston principal used school funds to finance all-inclusive vacations to Barbados

BOSTON — The former principal of a school in Boston has been charged with wire fraud after federal investigators say she used school funds to finance all-inclusive vacations to Barbados.

Naia Wilson, 60, of Mattapan, has agreed to plead guilty and pay restitution for allegedly engaging in a scheme to defraud Boston Public Schools of approximately $38,806, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts.

From 2006 until about June 2019, Wilson was employed as the head of New Mission School, a pilot that was granted maximum autonomy over its budget and spending, charging documents showed. During that time period, the school received a lump sum per pupil budget from Boston Public Schools and administrators decided how to spend that money based on the needs of the school.

Pilot school budgets are managed by an external fiscal agent that contracts with Boston Public Schools. The school funds managed by the external fiscal agent were held in a bank account. In order to spend school funds managed by the external fiscal agent, Wilson, in her role as headmaster of New Mission School, Wilson was required to make formal check requests to the external fiscal agent for a check to be issued from the bank account holding the school’s funds.

Beginning in or about September 2016 and continuing until at least May 2019, Wilson allegedly requested checks from the external fiscal agent school account to be issued in the name of other individuals, fraudulently endorsed those checks to herself, and then deposited them into her own bank account without the nominee ever knowing or authorizing her to do so.

Additionally, Wilson allegedly requested checks from the external fiscal agent that were used to pay for two all-inclusive personal vacations to Barbados for Wilson and her friends in 2016 and 2018.

For both the 2016 and 2018 Barbados trips, Wilson requested that the external fiscal agent issue checks payable to other people who went on the trips and then converted that money to pay for the all-inclusive hotel and airfare, according to investigators. Wilson also allegedly fraudulently endorsed the checks used to pay for the 2018 trip.

In a statement, Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said, “Protecting children is one of the very top priorities of this Office and threats come in all forms. Here, Ms. Wilson is accused of diverting school funds for her personal benefit. We will not allow this type of gross abuse of authority and responsibility fly under the radar. Individuals who take advantage of public trust to line their pockets will be investigated and held accountable.”

“Instead of working honestly on behalf of her students, Naia Wilson is accused of abusing her authority and using the school’s budget as her own personal slush fund to embezzle tens of thousands of dollars to fund two all-inclusive vacations to Barbados for herself and her friends,” Christopher DiMenna, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division, added. “Today’s charges should serve as a reminder to municipal workers everywhere that there are serious consequences for such shameful conduct, and it is the taxpayers they serve and answer to at the end of the day.”

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

It’s not clear when Wilson will be called to court.

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