Update: Former PTA President Charged with Theft

Woman faces allegations of stealing $101,000

[Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 13 at 11:30 a.m.]

A West Orange woman has been charged with allegedly siphoning money from the Mt. Pleasant Parent-Teacher Association in West Orange, authorities said.

Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, clarified with Patch Friday that Deborah Sanchez allegedly stole $101,000 but that the investigation was ongoing.

Patch first reported that Sanchez was being charged with stealing more than $7,500, as stated by the prosecutor's office.

Sanchez, former Mt. Pleasant PTA president, made her first appearance in Superior Court last week and pleaded not guilty, according to Carter.

Sources familiar with the incident said the allegations are partly related to an after-school program Sanchez ran at Mt. Pleasant, where she apparently siphoned funds from the program.

Sanchez's attorney, Robert Stevens, said he was reviewing the allegations and working to explain the situation on her behalf.

"Innocent people do not like to be accused of doing something wrong," he told Patch. "There's another side of the story."

Mt. Pleasant Principal Michael Schiavo would not comment on the situation and deferred questions to the superintendent.

"During the time that we supervised the running of the (after-school) program, the books were in order, that's my understanding," Dr. Anthony Cavanna, Superintendent of Schools told Patch.

He said this was the first time such an incident happened in the district but would not comment further.

The after school program at Mt. Pleasant is currently run by the West Orange Community House and no longer handled by the PTA.

Marcia Dukes, current PTA president at Mt. Pleasant, said she took over as president after Sanchez, "It is unfortunate that this took place at Mt. Pleasant with the previous PTA. I'm hopeful that it can be resolved for the sake of the children and quickly."

She said Sanchez does not currently have children enrolled at Mt. Pleasant.

The allegations came to light last year after an audit was conducted by the PTA and brought to the attention of the police department, West Orange Capt. John Buoye said. He said the investigation was turned over to the prosecutor's office.

A message left at a West Orange telephone number for a Deborah Sanchez was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Sanchez's next court date is scheduled on Feb. 6. She will appear before Superior Court Judge Verna Leath.

Tired_of_WO_Haters January 13, 2012 at 06:14 PM
the accusers.
Tired_of_WO_Haters January 13, 2012 at 06:19 PM
@ WO-citizen..."have the right to do these crimes"??? Really? How ignorant to condemn Ms. Sanchez and already assume she is guilty. Do you know her personally? How pathetic to assume such things and judge without knowing. So very sad.
WO-citizen January 13, 2012 at 06:26 PM
If you read my post clearly, it was a generalization as to what people think they can get away with these days. Do you know her personally that you are getting so defensive? No where did I assume she was guilty, stop assuming, again if you read my post you would have seen I said "money was allegedly taken". Please review the thoughts of others before assuming everyone is against Ms. Sanchez.
wondering January 13, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, clarified with Patch Friday that Sanchez allegedly stole $101,000 but that the investigation was ongoing. Patch first reported that Sanchez was being charged with stealing more than $7,500, as stated by the prosecutor's office.
wondering January 13, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Do you know Ms. Sanchez?
Concerned in WO January 13, 2012 at 07:13 PM
@ Barry, there is a reason I do not use my name.....Are you that uncomfortable having a conversation with someone that you don't know their name? And you don't even need to address my post, I just wanted to express my opinion that things get worse once something is brought to the attention of the public.
Concerned in WO January 13, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I would just like to say that I am sick to my stomach that $101,000 is actually missing from an elementary school PTA. I don't care who took it. Just the fact that this money is for programs for the kids, especially with all the budget cuts. This person should be ashamed of themselves. When the truth comes out, and it will, I hope the punishment is severe. I hope all you people out there don't take my post as being accusatory, I am not. She is innocent until proven guilty, and along the line maybe others will be charged. I don't know.
Tired_of_WO_Haters January 13, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Not sure how your post can be a generalization when the "money was allegedly taken" by Ms. Sanchez. Who else can you be referring to when you write "it's just sad that people just can do the right thing..."?? I am indeed reviewing the thoughts of others contrast to your post which seems to not take the thoughts or feelings of all involved. Whether I know Ms. Sanchez personally is irrelevant. What's important is to not make such remarks as you do until all of the facts are known.
Webster January 14, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Does Ms. Sanchez' definition for PTA = "P"resident "T"akes "A"ll?
Adam Kraemer January 14, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Guilty or not the PTA needs to account for the money. I support the PTA and the PTA at Saint Cloud were my children are does so very positive things. However, when the PTA asks for money for this or that I need to know it is being spent as it is suppose to be spent or I will think twice about giving or paying. Justice needs to be done. If she is guilty the law should come down on her hard as stealing from kids is shameful. The PTA needs to reestablish a sense of financial integrity regardless of the outcome of this legal matter.
Gary Englert January 14, 2012 at 07:15 PM
@ Adam Kraemer: One must first understand that a PTA is an ever evolving entity with anyone's membership or involvement in one limited to the years their children attend a particular school. In my day, the by-laws set prerequisites for serving as president (previous board service) and specific term limits on officers and, as previously stated, an annual, indepedent financial audit was mandatory. Without getting into the specifics of the matter, let alone anyone's guilt or innocence, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out at least part of what happened here: a new board took office and found financial questions/discrepancies its predecessors could not/would not resolve. They then fulfilled their fiduciary responsibility and brought the matter to the attention of the authorities who found reason to file criminal charges and seek an indictment. Clearly, this is an uncomfortable thing for the new board to have to have done as it has pitted neighbor against neighbor but, it was right thing to do and all kudos to them for taking this responsible yet difficult path. This action also re-established the organization's financial integrity and attests to the professionalism, ethics and courage of the PTA's current officers.
Adam Kraemer January 16, 2012 at 11:51 AM
@ Gary when money goes missing and some on is charged criminally with fraud that is a clear sign that some thing needs to be done with in any organization improve accounting controls and fiscal integrity. Clearly the PTA is a good organization that adds value to the community Also, people are to have the presumption of being innocent. However, this is a very serious matter that can not be ingnored. Kudos to those who spotted the issue and addressed it.
Gary Englert January 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM
@ Adam Kraemer: Suffice it to say that (without getting into details and compromising anyone's position here) I know enough about this situation to feel that it was an anomoly and that adequate financial controls are already in place. While surprised that someone considering another run for the Board of Ed isn't wired into such things, contact me off-line if you require further explanation.
Ugly Betty January 19, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Proud Mt. Pleasant Mom January 28, 2012 at 01:59 AM
When Debbie Sanchez crossed out "Mt. Pleasant PTA" on the face of my personal check, and hand penned in her our name, and then deposited same into her personal bank account, she lost all rights to confidentiality and "innocent until proven guilty" in my book. Oh, Barry, I am directly involved in the situation, and you don't 'know me personally.'
Gary Englert January 28, 2012 at 06:47 AM
@ Proud Mt. Pleasant Mom: Your post deserves comment on a least a couple of levels: 1. If what you allege to have happened to you is true, there's little point in relaying the story publicly from behind a psuedonym as it won't effect opinion one way or the other. You are better served by providing your proofs and testimony to the Prosectutor's Office and at trial, if there ever is one. 2. If Ms. Sanchez's bank accepted this altered check for deposit, and your bank effected payment and debited your account, you clearly have some recourse against one or both of these institution.
barry_geltzeiler January 28, 2012 at 11:24 PM
@proud I never asked for confidentiality I only asked for respect for her kid who has to live with this. The courts will try Mrs Sanchez so we do not have to. Think about her son before you make comments is all I ask, because he is he innocent party. He can read this forum , so save the dishing for car pool line. And if you truly are involved in the case, your comments are not only inappropriate but if traced back to you thru your ip address you may have jepordized this investigation by divulging this information.
Gary Englert January 28, 2012 at 11:44 PM
@ barry_geltzeiler: The impact on Ms. Sanchez's family notwithsanding, the only effect this kind of anonymous report might likely have is prejudicing potential jurors, rather than jeopardizing the investigation. I also have very little doubt that there will be any problem at all empaneling a jury (in Essex County) whose members are completely unaware of this matter. So far as I know, it hasn't been reported aywhere other than The Patch and The Chronicle. I'd also opine that (if what Proud Mt. Pleasant Mom reports is true) the Prosecutor's Office already knows about it, has interviewed her (and anyone else with a similar story) and has them on their witness list. A thorough review of banking records is surely standard operating procedure in any such investigation.
barry_geltzeiler January 28, 2012 at 11:50 PM
@gary with technology today that cmment can be traced right back to that person. If they are a witnes then the judge will not lok kindly on comments made on an internet forum
Gary Englert January 29, 2012 at 03:44 AM
@ barry_geltzeiler: While the technology to track down any anonymous Internet poster surely exists, the necessity to do so in this particular case (and most any other similar) is likely negated by considerable legal precedence. The people who have given their accounts of an incident to media, before being called to do so in a court of law, are legion and pre-dating even John C. Condon, he of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Case fame. The most salient point here still remains that making such an anonymous report is pointless and serves no useful purpose.
Concerned in WO January 30, 2012 at 12:48 PM
@ Barry and Gary, the point is this: If what Proud Mt. Pleasant Mom says is true, that is really sad. I don't believe Proud would come on here and make something like that up either. You two go back and forth all about technical stuff and are forgetting what this is all about. And everyone has a right to voice their opinion and NO ONE has the right to judge them!
Gary Englert January 30, 2012 at 02:12 PM
@ Concerned in WO: I'm not judging anyone, simply expressing an opinion with considerable merit: that anonymously posting alleged details of methodology used to commit an alleged crime on an Internet message board serves no useful purpose. Only when and if Proud Mt. Pleasant identifies herself, testifies in a court of law and the check alluded to is presented into evidence will this tale have any practical effect or move the ball down field. Until then, it reamins an anonymous and unsubstantiated story wafting around in cyberspace.
Abraham Lincoln April 19, 2012 at 01:59 PM
@ Proud Mt. Pleasant Mom Do you realize how dumb you sound??? It's actually quite funny! Saying you are DIRECTLY INVOLVED clearly PROVES that a bunch of idiots made these outrageous alliegations! I agree with all that are standing up for Sanchez, her child, and her family. INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY!!!!
Concerned in WO April 19, 2012 at 06:33 PM
@ Abraham Lincoln, Do you realize how ignorant YOU sound????? If Proud is saying that is what happened, who are you to say it is an allegation? I am sure he/she has to be involved somewhat, they would have to provide a copy of their check to the authorities. And yes, I do believe in innocent until proven guilty, and if someone would like to make a comment about what happened to them PERSONALLY, then they should be allowed to do that without criticism.
Gary Englert April 19, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Everyone needs to disabuse themselves of the notion that anything posted anonymously (about this matter or anything else), particularly an accusation concerning criminality, holds absolutely no weight. First and foremost, there is a presumptive right to face one's accuser and that's surely an impossibility if they aren't identified. Those willing to have been deposed, who presented proofs and a willingness to testify at trial are who and what will be given as much credibility as is warranted, Anonymous post on a website? Not so much.
Rob Franco March 30, 2013 at 02:30 AM
debbie sanchez is a disgusting leech. she preyed on our most innocent comodity and stole part of our kids life and learning by being a lecherous thief. her selfish ways should not go unpunished! why didn't her picture get plastered on the web site for everyone to see? she needed to be publicly humiliated for her heinous crime!
MSS March 30, 2013 at 12:49 PM
"I support the PTA and the PTA at Saint Cloud were my children are does so very positive things." So your kids are back at St. Cloud? Following your posts I thought they went to a private religious school.
MSS March 30, 2013 at 01:02 PM
I'm calling Shenanigans on you. That sounds highly unlikely. She was charged with theft, not check fraud. Your post should be dismissed. I don't think any reasonable, intelligent person would believe you. Patch should really delete your post.
MSS March 30, 2013 at 01:11 PM
@Concerned, it isn't actually an opinion she is making. She is making a criminal accusation of check fraud and I haven't seen that in the list of charges, and NO ONE has the right to do that! If my bank cashed a check where my Pay to had been altered, I would certainly be at my bank with a bee in my bonnet and I think ALOT of parents would have noticed that. You have to admit, the whole scenario sounds highly unlikely. You don't think things are made up on the internet, especially if you can do so anonymously? I do no believe you are that naive. I do not condone the actions of Ms. Sanchez, I just despise people who use the internet to slander others.
MSS April 01, 2013 at 02:45 PM
@Concerned in WO, if what they say happened with the check is a lie, then the comment is libel.


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