When Jennifer Lynn Edwards deposited a Skyview Elementary Parent Teacher Organization check for $1,000 into her bank account in March 2014, she’d just returned to Macon from a school trip to the nation’s capitol.
While there, she’d visited the National Holocaust Museum, the Hard Rock Cafe and a nail salon.
She’d also bought Godiva chocolate.
On other occasions, she’d cashed PTO checks and deposited money into her personal banking accounts so she could pay her car loan, utility bills and to erase negative balances, prosecutor Myra Tisdale said during a Wednesday Bibb County Superior Court hearing.
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Edwards, a former Skyview Elementary PTO treasurer, pleaded guilty to 38 counts of fiduciary theft during the hearing, admitting she’d taken more than $9,600 from the organization between February and June 2014.
Speaking before she was sentenced, the 40-year-old single mother apologized, saying “I’m truly sorry.”
Her public defender, Kristen Quinton, asked for leniency, saying Edwards’ fellow PTO members didn’t want her to be prosecuted.
Supporters testified that Edwards is an “involved parent’ to three children would be harmed if she was sent to prison.
A PTO member testified the group’s “main focus was to get the money back” and they were surprised when Edwards was arrested.
Judge Edgar Ennis sentenced Edwards to 15 years on probation and to serve 50 weekends in the county jail by Aug. 1, 2017.
She also also must pay a $6,000 fine, complete 200 hours of community service and pay $750 in attorney’s fees for Quinton’s services.
In announcing the sentence, Ennis said he took into consideration that Edwards already had repaid the money she’d taken.
Sentenced as a first offender, Edwards won’t have a felony record if she successfully completes her sentence. A misstep could result in her being resentenced to prison.
This money was intended to be used for the benefit of children.
Prosecutor Myra Tisdale
Tisdale said the theft was discovered after a new principal at Skyview requested the PTO’s records at the end of the 2013-2014 school year for an audit. Edwards wouldn’t respond to requests for the records.
Then, a bank statement arrived at the school showing the PTO’s account had a $103 balance, Tisdale said.
Later, a statement showed the account was in the red by more than $500, she said.
Edwards was removed from her post and a prior PTO president, a friend of the Edwards family, who was able to obtain the PTO bank records and work out a plan for Edwards to repay the money she’d taken, Tisdale said.
Tisdale, who argued in favor of Edwards serving time in a probation detention center said Edwards was in a position of trust when she took the money.
“She used the money earned and contributed by the students and parents of Skyview Elementary to basically maintain her standard of living and make trips and make frivolous purchases,” Tisdale said during the hearing. “This money was intended to be used for the benefit of children.”
Edwards’ plea comes about a month after a former treasurer for Vineville Academy’s Parent Teacher Organization pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $30,000 from her school’s group.
Eloise Maxine Reid, 49, pleaded guilty May 11 to 19 counts of fiduciary theft and was sentenced to 180 days in a probation detention center. She also must serve 15 years on probation.
Reid additionally is required to pay $32,175 restitution to the school within 42 months.
Like Edwards, Reid was sentenced as a first offender. The judge ruled her probation may be terminated after five years if she pays the restitution and otherwise abides by terms of her sentence.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.