Chesterton Tribune



Former president of Discovery Charter School not-for-profit charged with theft of $57K

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A former president of the Discovery Charter School’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) has been charged with the theft of nearly $60,000, following an investigation by the Porter Police Department of “accounting irregularities” uncovered by the succeeding president and treasurer of the PAC.

Lisa M. Apato was formerly charged with theft on Sept. 27. A special prosecutor has been appointed by the Lake County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, at the request of Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Germann, who previously represented Apato. The theft charge is a Level 5 felony punishable by a term of one to six years.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by the PPD, in July 2016 a newly appointed PAC treasurer began asking PAC president Apato for certain financial records, pertaining to moneys raised by the annual fundraiser which “usually brings in approximately $50,000 after expenses.” Apato, however, “would always come up with an excuse as to why the records were unavailable.” Not until Apato’s term ended did the new treasurer gain full access to those records.

“It soon became clear that Apato was not depositing cash received from the fundraisers into PAC’s bank account,” the affidavit stated. “Although the money paid by bank card went into the PAC bank account and the money paid by check was deposited into the bank account, Apato would then remove this money from the PAC account by making a series of withdrawals.”

The affidavit alleges that Apato removed moneys totaling $35,105.49 from PAC’s account in the following ways: by writing 19 checks made payable to herself and totaling $24,050; by using her PAC debit card to make 17 ATM cash withdrawals totaling $6,800; and by using her PAC debit card on 32 occasions totaling $4,255.49 “to buy personal items and/or to pay personal expenses.”

More: “Although past PAC fundraisers always generated large amounts of cash money, none of this cash totaling $22,842.28 was ever deposited into the PAC bank account.” Among the alleged examples cited by the affidavit:

-- “In March 2016, $2,890 in cash collected from the Musical Fundraiser was never deposited by Apato. The Centier Bank records indicate that checks were deposited but not the cash.”

-- “In April of 2016, $7,260 in cash was collected by Apato for the Discover Our World Fundraiser. However, Apato failed to deposit this cash money into the PAC account. The amount of money was calculated by totaling the amount of revenue received from ticket sales, raffles, food sales, etc., and then subtracting the moneys received through checks and bank cards, which items were credited to the PAC account.”

-- “In January of 2017, $7,113.18 in cash money was collected by the school librarian for the Scholastic Fundraiser. (The treasurer) then counted the money and recorded the amount before turning the cash over to Apato. Lisa Apato failed to deposit the cash money into the PAC bank account.”

The affidavit alleges that, all told, Apato “took money in the total amount of $57,947.77” and that she “had no authority” to do so.

When the PPD initially opened its investigation, Lt. John Lane emphasized that the PAC is a volunteer not-for-profit run entirely by parents and not affiliated with Discovery Charter School’s administration. No administrators or staff sit on the PAC.



Posted 10/9/2019





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