PTSO Embezzlement Case Sent to Grand Jury

The case against an Ashburn woman accused of embezzling more than $21,000 from the Rock Ridge High School PTSO advanced this week when a District Court judge found evidence sufficient to refer it to a grand jury.

Sophia E. Brown was treasurer of the volunteer parent-teacher-student group during a period in 2019 and 2020 when numerous cash withdraws were made from the organization’s bank account. 

During the Jan. 19 preliminary hearing, a former PTSO president and the treasurer who succeeded Brown testified about the organization’s spending practices and payment policies. The PTSO holds fundraisers to provide support to teachers and special programs, such graduation night parties. Purchases, payments, disbursements, and reimbursements are made by checks signed by two officers.  The organization had a debit card used primarily for online purchases.

After Brown stepped down from the treasurer’s post in 2020, her successor testified that Brown initially resisted providing her access to the bank account. After the account was transferred, she found numerous ATM withdraws for cash in amounts ranging from $100 to $600. There also charges for usual items, including two payments to a car rental company. Brown wrote a check to the PTSO for five transactions, including one of the car rentals, describing them as accidental charges, according to the testimony.

Brown’s attorney Tabatha Blake said there was little evidence to show that Brown was responsible for the questioned charges or that the charges were not authorized. Other members of the organization may have access to the debit card number, she said. 

Before the start of the preliminary hearing, county prosecutors dropped one of the three charges against Brown, for credit card fraud.

After the testimony, Judge Matthew P. Snow dismissed another charge, finding prosecutors had not provided evidence to substantiate an allegation of conducting unlawful financial transactions, which had been charged under a money laundering statue.

He did, however, find probable cause to send the charges of embezzlement to the grand jury for indictment. That review is set for Feb. 14, with the case then expected to move to Circuit Court for adjudication.

Brown was arrested Oct. 14 and was freed on a $5,000 bond.

5 thoughts on “PTSO Embezzlement Case Sent to Grand Jury

  • 2022-01-22 at 8:28 am
    Permalink

    Loudoun’s CA can’t even handle a slam dunk prosecution for financial crimes. The lack of commitment and preparedness is astonishing.

    We deserve better.

  • 2022-01-23 at 7:33 am
    Permalink

    That is interesting…. especially since Jeff Morse stalled the School Support Organization policy because the PTA leadership wanted to have more say in it… And demanded their exclusive “leadership only” have an unrecorded meeting with Dr. Ziegler and his Chief Financial Officer that wasn’t open to the public before they would ALLOW the school board to process the policy and bring it to the full school board.

    Must be nice to be a parent organization with money and influence over LCPS… they sure do have a LOT of power over our current school board and superintendent. Enough so that they stalled a policy that would help set limits on this type of behavior. Because, you know, they are the PTA and the money for LCPS. They have the final word. Even though they represent only 7,400 PTA members in Loudoun. Is that a majority? I don’t think so…

    See for yourself, item 4.05 Business and Financial Services: New Policy 8020, Relations with School Support Organizations at the Dec 07, 2021 – Finance & Operations Committee 4:30 p.m.

    http://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/loudoun/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=C8WMSU5C26A0

    Listen to the public comment and the interaction with the new Chair of the School Board Jeff Morse. Listen to how things are REALLY done in Loudoun without public town halls and only private meetings with special interest groups… How is policy 8020 going???

    Directly from the minutes for the Dec. 7 meeting minutes,

    “Business and Financial Services: New Policy 8020, Relations with School Support
    Organizations. This was an information item at the November 16, 2021, Finance
    and Operations Committee meeting. Mr. Hoyler moved that the Finance and
    Operations Committee recommend the Loudoun County School Board adopt new
    Policy 8020, Relations with School Support Organizations. There was no second.
    Mr. Morse suggested that the policy be brought back to Committee as an
    Information Item to discuss concerns of community and Committee members. ”

    What is the status now?? I didn’t see it on the January Finance Committee agenda… Or on the School Board agenda. Funny, that policy that the PTA didn’t like just disappeared. Wonder how that will go in court…

    • 2022-01-23 at 4:24 pm
      Permalink

      So the school administration and school board are actually working with parents and making time to listen to their concerns and you have an issue with that?? Or, you just want to attack unpaid parents that are volunteering in our schools? Because this is a wild bit of fiction and false associations you are trying to weave. PTO is not PTA and either way no other parent group or individual is responsible for the poor actions of the person on trial.

  • 2022-01-23 at 7:36 am
    Permalink

    Feel free to read the minutes of the January LCPS Finance Committee here:

    http://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/loudoun/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=CALRLV6E8848

    Here is the agenda and Audio/Visual for the meeting:
    http://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/loudoun/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=CALJ3H4ACF49

    I don’t see policy 8020 anywhere, do you? Yet the Chief of Staff is getting targeted and scapegoated. For what, bringing that to their attention? Who runs LCPS? Seems like the PTA has more say than their former Chief of Staff. That is the sad reality of LCPS — parent groups run the school system and shame other parents into submission. Those in power just let it happen.

  • 2022-01-23 at 11:10 am
    Permalink

    The credit card was used for 2 rental car transactions. Brown acknowledged one of those. How hard is it for law enforcement to find out who rented the car on the second occassion?

    I would think the same would hold true for the ATM machines to see if they had cameras and if the photos are stored.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: