Feds charge former Brennemann School principal with fraud; “At least $200,000” of CPS money stolen

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged the former principal of Joseph Brennemann Elementary School in Uptown with ten counts of wire fraud for allegedly embezzling money through an overtime payment scheme.

Chicago Public Schools removed Sarah Abedelal from the school in April 2019 after an internal investigation allegedly found financial irregularities. Now, the feds have stepped in.

Between 2012 and 2019, Abedelal authorized overtime payments for some school employees who were not required to actually work for the money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said in a media statement.

Abedelal, 57, directed the employees to give her or the school’s assistant principal the fraudulently paid overtime money from their checks so she could use it to pay school expenses, prosecutors said. In fact, Abedelal allegedly spent the money — at least $200,000 — on herself.

According to the indictment, school employees who received the unearned payouts were ordered to withdraw the overtime funds on payday and immediately deliver the cash to Abedelal in her office or classrooms. She then converted the cash to money orders that she used to pay personal expenses, including her mortgage, according to prosecutors.

The federal indictment said three of the school’s business managers prepared fraudulent overtime sheets at the direction of Abedelal and the assistant principal and that the business managers knew the overtime hours weren’t being worked.

No other Brennemann School employees are named in the federal indictment.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com