Ex-Alabama school chief admits he stole $340,000 from district

Published 6:16 am Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ex-Alabama school administrator pleads guilty to wire fraud

A former Alabama school administrator accused of defrauding a district of more than $300,000 has pleaded guilty to a federal charge, according to an agreement made public Tuesday.

Walter James III, 49, the former assistant principal at Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Monday, news outlets reported, citing the plea agreement.

The court documents also alleged former Jefferson Davis Principal Bobby Abrams and former interim Chief School Financial Officer Brenda Palmer were aware of the scheme and were paid for their involvement in it.

James served as the assistant principal from 2014 through June 2019. Prosecutors alleged that during his time with the district, he created a consulting company and submitted fraudulent invoices for payment to Montgomery County Public Schools. He was accused of then depositing the checks and withdrawing the money for personal use.

James received payments of about $340,000 from the school system, according to a February audit obtained by news outlets.

Five other Montgomery Public Schools employees were accused of misusing funds in the audit, which came during an ongoing investigation by the system, officials have said. More than $700,000 was found to be misappropriated from the district between October 2017 through September 2018.

If convicted, James could face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The office of United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. declined to comment to The Montgomery Advertiser on whether Abrams and Palmer were also being investigated.