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Grand jury indictment reveals nearly 9-year CCSD fraud scheme

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Updated: 7/20 11:12 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) – The Clark County grand jury indictment Friday of five people related to a Clark County School District investigation into possible misuse of public funds offers details about crimes alleged to have occurred.

Several counts detail a nearly nine-year scheme -- from late 2005 to early 2014 -- to tutor a student that resulted in nearly $130,000 of CCSD money to be illegally paid to benefit three of the defendants.

Priscilla Rocha, former director of the Adult English Language Acquisition Services Department, is facing 26 counts of theft and 24 counts of unlawful use of public money. Donnie Placencia and Jerome Rocha (Priscilla's son) each face 10 counts of theft. Andres Mendoza faces one count each of theft, possession of stolen property, and burglary. Jaime Espitia faces two counts of theft.

The 41-page indictment outlines the alleged crimes, some of which include:

-- In 2011, Priscilla Rocha had staff members purchase $13,600 worth of computers, iPads, projectors, a 40-inch television, CD players and laptops that were transported and donated to schools in Ensenada, Mexico.

-- From September to December 2013, Priscilla Rocha and Espitia engaged in a scheme to pay Cesar Diaz-Villanueva $8,640 for 480 hours of work for CCSD and have the money transferred to Espitia for his personal benefit.

-- From Jan. 1, 2014, to March 31, 2014, Priscilla Rocha and Espitia conspired in a scheme to claim “C. Diaz” was an out-of-district consultant and worked as a tutor for 256 hours during the three months and was paid $4,608 of CCSD money that was transferred to Espitia for his own personal benefit.

-- Several counts in the indictment state that from Oct. 7, 2005, through March 31, 2014, Priscilla Rocha, Placencia and Jerome Rocha conspired to have nearly $130,000 in CCSD money be paid for tutorial services for Donnie Placencia when he did not work for the AELAS program.

-- Another count states that Priscila Rocha had a CCSD employee purchase computers, IPads and security cameras at a cost of $2,099.55 and install them at defendant Mendoza’s home for his personal benefit. Another count states that Mendoza attempted to pawn an IPad at EZ Pawn at 1501 E. Charleston Ave. on Jan. 28, 2014.

-- Another count says Priscilla Rocha hired Ana Soto to work for her at Yamilex Beauty Salon from June 6, 2013, to March 19, 2014, and she was paid with $2,483.01 of CCSD money.

All five defendants went before Judge Linda Ball on Friday. All were ordered to surrender their passports. Their next hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday.

The Adult English Language Acquisition Services Department provides non- and limited-English speaking adults with workplace and life skills.

Attorney Thomas Pitaro told News 3 on Friday that he is confident he will be able to clear Priscilla Rocha's name as the case moves forward, saying she has a reputation of helping people in the community.

CCSD announced March 19 that it had received a complaint about the possible misuse of funds in December and asked Metro to assist in the investigation.

Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky released this statement Friday:

"When we learned of the accusations surrounding the possible misuse of funds within the school district's Adult English Language Acquisition Services department, we immediately reached out to Sheriff Doug Gillespie with the information.

"I'm thankful that Sheriff Gillespie and his team acted quickly to investigate the Adult English Language Acquisition Services department. I want the community to know that district funds, whether received from grants or other sources, will be used properly and in the best interest of our students.

"If district employees are not here to further the work we're doing of educating our children and improving our community, then they will be exposed and removed.

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