A former principal of the now-defunct Baltimore Community High School will serve three months in jail and must repay exactly $58,689.34 for using public funds to gamble and buy dozens of Apple devices and other electronics as gifts for others.
A Baltimore circuit court judge sentenced Leslie Lewis, 45, to five years in prison this morning, suspending all but 90 days of the term. She was also ordered to pay the nearly $60,000 in restitution to Baltimore City Public Schools.
Lewis pleaded guilty in December to two counts of theft of between $10,000 and $100,000. She was charged in March 2017.
For one of the counts, described in a statement of facts from her guilty plea, Lewis admitted to stealing just over $13,400 from a school account with PNC Bank to gamble at Maryland Live! Casino in Arundel Mills and Horseshoe here in Baltimore. The money came from sales of school uniforms, supplies, snacks and class dues payments and graduation fees, prosecutors say.
Each time she gambled, she withdrew the money from ATMs on-site at the casinos. Supplementing her visits with her own money, records showed she spent at least $600,000 at both casinos, netting a loss of roughly $73,000.
In the second count, Lewis pleaded guilty to stealing $45,000 from City Schools to spend on electronics that she mostly gave away. For a school employee named Pablo Torres, she bought a Bose speaker system, a 50-inch flat screen TV, six iPad Minis, an electric dryer “as a house-warming present” and more.
For a church-based group in Georgia, Lewis bought two Macbooks, an iMac desktop comuter, an iPad and an iPad Air. And prosecutors say she had other items delivered to Baltimore Community High School that she then gave to unspecified people from outside the workplace, including three iMacs, four Macbooks, two GoPro cameras and various tablets.
“No parent should worry that their children’s uniform money or prom dues are being spent by their principal at the local casino,” said State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt in a statement, “nor should taxpayers’ need be concerned that a school principal is spending public school funds to buy expensive technology for herself and her friends.”
City Schools sent a statement to Baltimore Fishbowl condemning Lewis’ actions: “As public educators, we have a responsibility to do our jobs with integrity, to serve as role models for our students, to act always in the best interest of our school communities, and to be scrupulous with taxpayer dollars. It is a gross injustice when an educator takes resources from students by stealing what should have gone to them, and we are gratified that justice has now been done in this case.”
Sadly, Lewis was following in other disgraced Baltimore principals’ footsteps. Prosecutors noted Alisha Trusy, former principal of Wester High School, pleaded guilty in 2015 to stealing roughly $54,000 from the school’s student activity fund, and that William Howard II, formerly principal of Coppin Academy, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $10,000 from his school’s student activity fund account in 2013.
This story has been updated.
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