LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– A judge scolded two teachers accused of stealing COVID-19 relief funding and ordered that they be taken into custody immediately on Monday.
Christopher Olmstead and Andrea Fuentes-Soto taught at Legacy Traditional School’s southwest campus. They were part of a scheme to steal the tax dollars to buy items for themselves, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Department.
Las Vegas Justice Court Judge Suzan Baucum set the teacher’s bail at the amount which police said was stolen at nearly $154,000.
Olmstead’s attorney, Charles Goodwin, and Fuentes-Soto’s attorney, Matthew Sibert both pointed out that their clients had no criminal history, have been holding jobs, and had ties to the Las Vegas community.
Goodwin said that Olmstead did not have the financial means to post bond. Judge Baucum pointed out that Olmstead hired a high-powered law firm.
Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney, Colleen Baharav had argued for bail. She said Olmstead was the ringleader.
Multiple teachers at the charter school were involved in the conspiracy, according to Metro detectives. Teachers were able to obtain grants for school projects. Guidelines specified that one teacher could obtain one $954 grant for a classroom project, according to police. However, detectives said they discovered that teachers used fake names to obtain multiple grants to buy themselves items like televisions, drones, video games, and more.
Police say they found stolen items in both of the teachers’ classrooms and 27 items at Fuentes-Soto’s home.
Detectives pointed to text messages between Fuentes-Soto and her husband, such as, “anything else we need the state to buy?” Responses included “a new laptop lol,” and “pops power rangers.”
Detectives also pointed to a group chat between sixth-grade teachers joking about the alleged scheme.
Teachers used the website donorschoose.org, the website the department of education hired to dole out the grant money.
In one of Fuentes-Soto’s applications, she writes about the lack of financial resources among her students’ families, and how her students need additional resources. She claimed she needs an iPad, an apple t-v, and an apple pencil for a science project.
Principal Victoria Welling is accused of knowingly approving the fraudulent applications. Welling appeared in court on July 7. Judge Baucaum also set her bail at the amount which police said was stolen. According to jail records, Welling posted bond Friday and was released.
Welling faces six charges, while the teachers each face four charges. These include felony counts for theft and conspiracy.
According to a Legacy spokesman, four employees, including the three defendants were fired.
The I-Team has learned that the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible.