CPS report highlights stolen funds, fake vendors, ‘ghost students’
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters January 3, 2014 8:38AM
Updated: February 5, 2014 6:03AM
First Lake View High School technology coordinator Roberto Tirado stole more than $400,000 from the school.
Then he apparently ended up choking to death in a Mexican border town.
That’s the shocking revelation of a report published Friday by the Chicago Board of Education’s Inspector General James Sullivan.
Sullivan’s report didn’t identify the technology coordinator by name, but sources said the unnamed person is Tirado.
Tirado, an alumnus of the high school, created fake vendors with much of the money going into his own personal bank account, according to the report.
Since 2001, those nine vendors were issued $419,743 for items “purportedly purchased by the high school.”
Most of the fake vendors were “either classmates of the technology coordinator when he attended the high school or were students at the school” when Tirado worked there, the report states. Six of those vendors used the same P.O. Box address in Evanston.
Bank records show Tirado directed most of the vendor payments — $330,975 — to his own account, the report said.
Tirado also received $114,477 in reimbursement checks from the school’s own internal account to an American Express account in Tirado’s name “dressed up to look as if it were an official school account,” according to the report.
The inspector general found two clerks helped Tirado “facilitate” his scam. Both retired.
During the course of the 2011 investigation, the technology coordinator withdrew $70,000 from a personal bank account, refused to speak with the inspector general’s office, resigned from CPS, fled to California and was found dead in Tijuana, Mexico, according to the report.
Tirado told his wife he was going to California for a short time, while there he told her he was going to Tijuana, a source said. She then reported him missing, a source said.
Consulate officials in Tijuana said the man’s airways were obstructed and he choked, Sullivan said. Tirado presumably died Jan. 2012.
The scam was discovered when a new principal was hired at the school, which triggered an automatic audit, Sullivan said.
A teacher at Lake View remembered Tirado as a nice coworker who doled out Starbucks gift cards as a token of appreciation to the teachers.
The scam and the circumstances of his demise, the teacher said, are “unbelievable.”
In Tirado’s case, one of many highlighted in the 43-page report, the inspector general’s office worked with federal investigators. No criminal charges have been filed.
In a separate case, two CPS employees — including a high school principal — enrolled “ghost students” in an attempt to qualify for more staff. A source said that school was Hirsch Metropolitan High School.
In another case highlighted in the report, CPS employees allowed a vendor to provide “inferior, substitute products and charge the same price as the item the vendor” was supposed to provide, costing CPS nearly $100,000 in unnecessary charges.
CPS officials wouldn’t comment on specific cases, but a spokesman said in a statement: “CPS takes seriously any abuse of school resources and has created rigorous safeguards in its procurement process. If any misconduct is suspected, the district does not hesitate to debar vendors, discipline personnel, and bring matters to the attention of law enforcement.”
There was also an instance in which a typo cost CPS $1 million.
A teacher was supposed to be reimbursed $1,253 but was issued a check for $1.253 million.
“The teacher alerted the school and her bank of the error when she checked her balance a few days later and discovered that over $1 million had been posted to her account,” Sullivan wrote in his report.
Contributing: Frank Main