Former Buffalo School Official sentenced for helping son steal funds from Buffalo schools

Posted at 2:43 PM, Dec 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-21 14:43:05-05

A former Buffalo school official is sentenced to three years probation for stealing government funds.

Acting U.S. Attorney James Kennedy says Debbie Buckley, 56, of Niagara Falls says she also paid restitution totaling $15,120 before her sentencing.

Buckley served as a Supervisor of Title I, Office of Federal and State Programs for the Buffalo School District. This is a federally funded program the helps school districts with high numbers of children from low income families.

Buckley was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Federal and State Programs.

Assistant Attorney Richard Resnick says in 2009 Buckley met with a representative of the Universal School which moved into the City of Buffalo. During the meeting, Buckley asked for blank letterhead from the school signed by the representative. She said it would be used to include the Universal School with other non-public schools to get more resources.

An investigation showed the letterhead was used to create a fraudulent letter that appeared to be written by the representative who signed the letterhead. The letter was addressed to Buckley and asked for someone to administer the Title I computer assisted program at the Universal School during the 2009-2010 school year.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says the letter was not written by the representative and the school did not even have a Title I computer assisted program.

A fraudulent contract was created as a result of this letter, assigning an individual identified as Hassan El Saddique to give Title I assistance at the Universal School.

El Saddique, Buckley's son, never provided this assistance and instead worked on a volunteer basis a few hours a week at a different school, Bishop Timon High School, according to officials. However, El Saddique submitted weekly invoices to the Buffalo School District from September 8, 2009 to June 30, 2010 seeking full-time payment based on the fraudulent contract. Some of the days included were days on which school was not even in session.

The U.S. Attorney says Buckley changed the approval process for a contractor of Title I services in non-public schools to be paid. She took away the required signature from an official at the non-public school so that she could sign the fraudulent invoices submitted by her son. This authorized the payment of his invoice.

According to officials, some of these invoices were during the same time period when Buckley was promoted to Assitant Superintendent.

In total, El Saddique was given 18 paychecks form the Buffalo School District for a total amount of $15,120. Thirteen of those paychecks were deposited into two union accounts that Buckley had control of, totaling $10, 320. Another check was cashed using one of these two union accounts.

Officials say El Saddique was convicted of theft of money in control and possession of a bank and was sentenced to on year supervised release and also has to pay a restitution of $15,120.