A mother has pleaded guilty to charges of helping her son steal funds from the Buffalo Public Schools.
Debbie Buckley, 56, of Niagara Falls pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft of government funds. She could face up to 10 years in prison when she is sentenced.
Buckley served as supervisor of Title I, a federally-funded program that provides aide to school districts with high numbers of children from low income families.
"You would think it would be a prudent school district which would ensure that those who are in the classrooms are in fact qualified to do so number one. And that they're actually performing the work on the days that they say they are, which would be number two. As alleged in this case, Mr. Saddique was doing neither and Ms. Buckley was in fact making it all possible," US Attorney William Hochul said.
In June 2009, Buckley was provided blank letterhead from the Universal School that was pre-signed by a school representative. Buckley allegedly used that letterhead to create a false letter from the school representative to herself requesting her son, 34-year-old Hassan El Saddique of Buffalo, administer a computer-assisted program at the school.
Federal officials say the school representative did not write or sign the letter, the school did not have a computer-assisted program, and El Saddique never worked at the school.
"As the complaint also alleges, the principal of that school never wrote that letter and never requested that he perform services there, so that is further evidence that there was knowledge on both sides that in fact that he was not supposed to be performing Title I services at Bishop Timon or anywhere," Assistant US Attorney Kathleen Lynch added.
Prosecutors say El Saddique did work at Bishop Timon High School as a volunteer because Title I funding was already obligated. However, El Saddique allegedly submitted invoices to the school district for days not worked at Bishop Timon and for services never performed at Universal School.
Authorities say Buckley and her son were able to get away with this scheme because Buckley changed the process on how a contractor was paid for Title I services. Buckley eliminated the need for a signature from an official at the school.
In all, El Saddique is accused of profiting $15,120 with his mother’s help. Charges are still pending against El Saddique, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2015.