MILTON, Ga. – Milton Police allege a former school director in Georgia embezzled thousands of dollars from her employer and spent the money on shopping trips, vacations and gifts for her daughter.
Milton Police charged Lidia Brizuela, the former assistant director at Montessori Scholars Academy in Milton, with felony theft after investigating financial records at the request of the school’s owner.
“The owner of the school contacted us and said they had found some irregular bookkeeping going on inside the school,” Milton Capt. Charles Barstow told WSB-TV. “Almost $71,000 had been siphoned off from the school and into the assistant director’s personal account.”
Investigators allege Brizuela opened a debit card linked to the school’s account, which she used for purchases at Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, as well as trips to Chicago and Las Vegas. The investigation also revealed Brizuela purchased a grand piano for her daughter for Christmas, according to the police report.
“The owner of Montessori Scholars Academy told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik he believes Brizuela was accepting checks and cash payments from parents at the school and then depositing them in her own accounts,” the news site reports.
The owner, Mohammad Shokoohi, said the purchases required him to take out a sizeable loan to keep the school going as officials looked into the source of the money problems.
Police believe Brizuela swiped the cash to “probably enjoy a little bit of a luxurious lifestyle maybe beyond what her salary was offering,” Barstow said.
The former director’s defense attorney, A.J. Richman, told WSB-TV his client is innocent, and alleges school officials fabricated the allegations in retaliation for an undisclosed slight.
“We intend to take this to trial and win at trial,” he said. “We have the same records, they’re all bank statements. We looked at them and we don’t see missing money.”
“We believe this was a retaliation against our client at the time,” Richman said, though he declined to detail what the alleged retaliation was for. “We’re disappointed the Milton Police Department didn’t recognize that issue up front.”
Richman also noted that Brizuela has no history of similar crimes in her past.
“My client is a mother. She’s never been arrested before. She’s in her 40s,” he said. “This is out of the blue.”