By Mina Corpuz
PEPPERELL — A Varnum Brook Elementary School PTO officer who allegedly took more than $68,000 from the fundraising group has paid back the full amount.
Former Treasurer Jennifer Rakiey stepped down in late January after the Parent Teacher Organization found money — including about $21,000 to be donated for a new playground — missing from the PTO bank account.
Rakiey signed an informal agreement with the PTO to pay back the full amount, police records show. She was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
“The kids of the school did not have an impact (on them) because we were able to recoup,” said PTO President Lisa Horne during a May 7 meeting.
The organization hosts fundraisers, sales, and other events to raise money for field trips, programs, and other activities for Varnum Brook students.
The agreement was for Rakiey to pay the full amount by May 1, which she did meet, Horne said.
Restitution was made in three increments starting in February and have been credited to the PTO’s bank account.
“The PTO has agreed that no further action be taken as long as the money is paid back,” an April 3 Pepperell police report states.
The incident report lists embezzlement for more than $250 by an association officer, which is a felony offense that is punishable by up to five years in state prison or a $25,000 fine and two years in jail.
Rakiey has not been charged, according to the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.
Varnum Brook Principal Tara Hanley reported missing money to the police in January after a check to an event vendor did not go through due to insufficient funds.
Rakiey was the only name on the PTO’s account and the only person authorized to spend from it, Hanley said.
In a January meeting with Pepperell Police and Hanley, Rakiey said she was at fault and mishandled the PTO’s accounts.
She mentioned that the PTO board had agreed to change bank accounts from Main Street to Bank of America in the fall of 2017. After a new account was set up, there were some fraudulent transactions, she said.
To protect that money from fraud, Rakiey said she moved the PTO funds to her personal account without board approval, according to police reports.
Horne and another listed on the Bank of America Account alleged Rakiey forged their signatures to open it.
Hanley and Horne declined to comment further.
Although the incident was reported in January, the PTO did not inform families until April and did not release Rakiey’s name.
In the past, PTO officers have expected treasurer reports to be accurate statements of finances, Horne said at the recent PTO meeting. Banking statements and access to the account weren’t part of reviewing expenses.
After the incident, the PTO has changed how treasurer reports are done.
A detailed report prepared by Interim Treasurer and incoming President Rena Mendel includes information about revenue from events, expenses, and a budget debuted at the meeting.
Through bylaw changes, detailed weekly treasurer reports are now the standard moving forward.
“It’s been a process everyone has put in the time working forward to where we are … and explaining what we do with funds,” Horne said.
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