CPS Moving To Fire Principal Over Fraud In Free Lunch Program

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools are moving to fire a principal and discipline 15 other employees, following disclosures by the CBS 2 Investigators and Better Government Association of apparent fraud in the free lunch program.

Now we’ve learned that a yearlong investigation by CPS’s inspector general has confirmed our findings and more.

The Chicago Public Schools spend more than a $100 million on free lunches to feed low income children.

But at the North Grand High School, CBS 2 and the Better Government Association found, for example, that the children of math teachers Maria Mouroukos and Virgilio Santos were getting free lunches

“How can you qualify for the free lunch program with a salary like yours. More than $70,000?” Zekman asked Santos last year.

“Sorry, sorry,” was all he said as he drove off.

Mouroukos also did not respond.

Now we’ve learned they’re among 14 employees implicated in submitting falsified free and reduced lunch applications.

“This was a scam,” said Andy Shaw, Executive Director of the Better Government Association. “This was a ripoff of tax dollars and heads should have rolled.”

One already has. Ascunsion Ayala has been removed as the principal at North Grand for allowing the false applications to be filed by her staff.

“The buck stops at the principal’s desk,” Shaw said. “She allowed a ripoff of our tax dollars.”

CBS 2 has also learned that dismissal charges against Ayala allege that she allowed false invoices to be submitted by a school vendor and allowed a breakdown of Board of Education rules to occur — such as tuition fraud, residency violations, falsified attendance records abuse of sick time and comp time.

Shaw praised the work of the CPS inspector general in this investigation saying, “the only way that you hold people properly accountable is when an independent inspector general Investigates.”

Ayala, Santos, and Mouroukos could not be reached for comment.

More from Pam Zekman
  • Ed

    Andy, the whole program is a fraud. Why the means testing anyway. If you are going to provide free food then you are going to have a measure of wasted food, why not let someone else eat. Do you audit everyone and make sure they are spending what they have the right way. If someone is poor because they have a substance abuse problem could not they also make an income but not have money available for their childrens meals. Why charity for some but not for others. Why mean spirited for one but caring for another. Are we not all human.

  • Diana

    They also need to investigate the parents who lie on these lunch applications. They have expensive cars and have expensive clothes and then write in false incomes. They randomly investigate a few but they should have each submit a pay stub. They see parents doing it all the time do they probably figured why not do it too. I personally hate paying $2.25 daily for what the call “lunch” for my child. The main entree is something processed and frozen. If your going to investigate those parents who are teachers then investigate all!

    • Lyndia

      Diana you are absoutely right. Big fine cars and their children are getting free lunch. Notwithstanding, that the lunches are garbage, high in sodium.

    • rose

      haha man if you live in that neighborhood you should know we broke ma nigga aint nobody rolling around on spinners i went to ng and let me just say our lunch was usually our only real meal of the day sorry you have to pay but thats life. cuz if i had to pay 2.25 for lunch my ass woulda went hungry

      • diana

        In responses to Rose. I know the majority can’t afford to pay for lunch so it’s great that they receive a free lunch. like you said it’s probably really the only real meal they get. I just don’t like when people lie for a free lunch and they can really pay for it.

      • Monica

        Sad part is probably the majority of parents are lying. I have several family members working in the schools and they see the waste and BS on a daily basis. The parents and kids are walking around in designer clothes and claiming false incomes for free food. The CPS schools don’t educate anymore. All they do is babysit.

      • ChicagoCitizen

        @rose, That’s what all those food stamps are supposed to be for.

  • fr

    your child can qualify depending on how many people live in your household. So even with a salary of $70,000 it is possible to qualify.r

  • MM

    I could not agree with you more! My son goes to a private school here in Chicago and I was told by the office to apply for the free lunch. My response was that obviously I would be denied and the secretary said to just apply because most of the parents that do apply, get accepted. Of course, I was pretty shocked and said to her that if they make under the $32K allowed to qualify than surely I don’t make enough to afford private school tuition?!? We have to prove income for lots of things, why not for free or reduced lunch?!

  • CC

    Why don’t you learn to write the word “illegal” before posting such nonsense on such a public forum. The comment box even has a spell checker! The debate on ILLEGAL immigration has little to do with this case of mismanagement of public funds, fraud, etc… within a Chicago public high school.
    However…since you mention that you would not like US born children of illegal immigrants to receive benefits entitled to citizens, I suppose you want to rewrite the constitution too…I think you SHOULD leave the city…It will fair better without people like you in it.

  • Fxxx

    Some of those “illegal” children who sometimes may not have enough to eat and also work get better grades than some of the legal children in school. I bet you aything that if government was to give them a chance to stay here and prove they can continue to go to school and go to college they would get a degree and do good… dont stereotype all illegal people because u saw a pregnat girl pushing a stroller on pulaski and whatever other street! …..

    Your ignorant naive and dumb ass fu** for making a statement like that…

  • Tracey

    Every Race milks the system. Some races more than others but I’m not going to play the Race game. Don’t just point out illegals.

  • Chicago Realtor

    Wow, where do I start??!? JCovich is obviously stupid!!!! First off, learn how to spell and use English. I would bet most illegals are better educated and add more to society than JCovich, this post here proves it. Second, how can you tell who is illegal an who isn’t? Finally, one cannot apply for welfare if they are illegal.

    Jcovich- do this world a favor and jump in front of a moving CTA bus.

  • Concerned in Chicago

    Look at Prosser High School !!! The principal there is milking and mismanaging funds left and right!!!!

    No funds for legitimate programs but he has a hefty amount in the pizza fund!!!
    Stolen computers and nothing is done about it.
    Students get their cell phone stolen even though unfortunate the Principal finds school funds to pay for it?!?! Really
    Few respect him there and anyone (even his supporters) can tell you more people dislike him than like him

    • Jenny

      Isn’t that the way most schools are ran? There is a school on the southside where the principal solicts money from her staff for a Christmas gift for her. Downtown instructed her to give the money back but she didn’t. The next year she did the same thing and went on a trip in Feburary to a far away place. I better not say any more because some people may know who and what school I am talking about. She is disliked by her staff too but her teachers need their jobs and are afraid to say anything althought two has.

  • Lyndia

    She is not the only principal that lies about attendance records. They do that to keep their attendance rates up thus they look good down town. SHE IS NOT THE ONLY PRINCIPAL THAT DOES THIS. They accept children out of their attendance area to keep their enrollment up. SHE IS NOT THE ONLY PRINCIPAL THAT DOES THIS. I am sure they caught her in lies. SHE IS NOT THE ONLY PRINCIPAL THAT DOES THIS. They lie to make themselves look good down town and to keep their school open, thus they will have a job. The clerks assist principals in this thus, they can keep a job too.

  • Raymond Prudente

    Chicago is experiencing massive budget deficit because of governmental corruption, fraud, patronage… the deficit will continue to grow. Taxpayers need to be vigilant it is their hard-earned-dollars being wasted. The fact that public officials and politicians will retire and leave with fat checks. Our economy suffer and the rest of us will bear the cost.

    It is unacceptable that school officials has used the program for personal interest . The “Culture of Corruption” should be stopped. People and children of Chicago deserve a better and honest government!

  • gibson

    get em Andy. Yeah! Fire all of them. Make sure the principal is first. Oh and the parents they have link cards they give out. Go after the Illinois Link system now – that is the worst. Have a link card, go to costco don’t need a membership. We pay 50.00 a year for our membership. They have better cars they I do.

    • Mike

      blacks and browns scamming the system.

  • justine

    I agree n disagree w some of these post Chicago Reader is correct no illegal immigrant recieves welfare for them selves!!!But for their american children yes..Secondly dont be to quick to assume just because one drives a fancy car doesnt mean they arent allowed to have a link…How do u know what may suddenly have happend to their financial situation recently?Death,Illness,sudden loss of a great city or county job?How do u know they arent shopping for their elderly father w it?(as I do)also there r many familys that arent scamming the lunch program many on here are quick to talk about blacks n Mexicans?Ha got news for you..I work at a HS in Lagrange n majority of our kids are on free lunch these familes are suffering different crisis bankruptcy divorce temp. hardship you guys just dont know

  • Mike

    It’s another way of mostly blacks and browns scamming the system and mostly white taxpayers having to pay for it.

  • Tea Party Hero

    Another liberal trying to get a free ride on the tax dollars of hard working Americans.

    We should get rid of the free lunch program all together.

    Why should wealthy job-creators pay for your kids food. Get a job and pay your own way. Got a job? Get a second one and stop bleeding the taxpayers dry.

  • Concerned Teacher

    As a teacher in the Chicago Public schools I am embarrassed and appalled by what these teachers and administrators are getting away with. This went beyond the free lunch fraud and was far bigger and more damaging than initially thought. These people did not just steal from the taxpayers. They stole from their own students and the school communities. How can we teach students to take pride in their schools and educations when people like these crooks are taking from them? This principal didn’t just turn a blind eye to the fraud, she submitted false invoices and doctored attendance. She is a criminal and so are the others. They give good, honest, and hard working teachers a bad name. I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest extent the law will allow.

  • !N$@N0

    Hey those skater kids suck!

    • myob!

      They are only having fun! And thats my friends there i go to that school!

  • Beardown

    And they don’t hire people with bad back round checks, my point is there is criminal even in the smallest things. Did every one forget about the news yesterday were the state of iIL. borrowed charitable dollars off of the tax forms we fill out yearlly is this legal. And top goverment people new of this and did not mention a thing about it. They should be accountable all of them just as we should be. I do not know to much corruption in public sector not to mention other things. HR within in companies our for companies and not for the employees is there an oath that they take. How do they sleep at night knowing companies scam to fire people. I guess this goes under the title AT WILL

  • Chivi

    Check out the schools in Little Village who have hired gym coaches with no education at all. They are relatives of other CPS employees. There are also teachers that do not speak English at all teaching spanish speaking kids that should be learning the English language. CLEAN IT UP!!!!! Teachers are ripping off the school system and they know about it amongst each other. They’ve been doing it for years and years and years!!!!!

  • Chivi

    Correction Chicago Realtor. There are some Social Workers that work for the welfare department that have submitted false reports so that some of their illegal relatives can get help. It can be done but must come from the inside in order for it to get approved. IIt is also being done for the ILHEAP program. IT IS HAPPENING AND HAS BEEN HAPPENING.

  • Ashley Wright

    omg i go to this school that guy was my math teacher and i am friends with that lady’s son mr Santos was justifiably fired the man was a horrible teacher !!!

    • Rebeca

      i dont think that mr.santos was a bad guy i had him for math too. but what he did was wrong people makes mistakes and he was not a bad guy

      • ng student

        Rebeca ur right he was a very nice man and i understand his mistake

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    […] and Alfortish with plotting to … chicago.cbslocal.com July 26th, 2011 07:19 PM EDT CPS Moving To Fire Principal Over Fraud In Free Lunch Program Andy Shaw Better Government Association Chicago Public Schools fraud Free Lunch Program inspector […]

  • Rebeca

    wow i actuallly went to this school its a bit surprising of all the frauds they did

  • Rebeca

    north grand high school was my home that is were i grew up in a way.i really dont know why did dr.ayala did it or any other teachers. but all i have to say is that i hope the new students in nrth grand get a pricipal thst will do someting for the students and help them achieved their goals my sister still goes at that school i hope this situatin doesnt afect her education.

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