LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A judge sentenced a teacher to two years of probation after he admitted that he stole pandemic education funding. Christopher Olmstead pleaded guilty to felony theft and appeared in Clark County District Court Monday for his sentencing.
“Although your motives were pure it appears, you should have known better,” Judge Michael Villani said.
Multiple teachers at Legacy Traditional School’s southwest campus were part of a conspiracy to steal nearly $154,000 in COVID-19 relief funding through a website called DonorsChoose in late 2021, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Each teacher could receive one grant of up to $954 for one classroom project, the program guideline specified.
Olmstead created 21 accounts with names such as Chrissy and Christian to purchase items including 6 Nintendo Switches, an Apple television, and two drones, detectives said.
It was revealed in court Wednesday that there was no evidence that Olmstead ordered the items for his own personal benefit. His defense attorney Charles Goodwin said that there are photos of Olmstead using the items with his students.
Olmstead had been named Teacher of the Year in 2020.
While police identified 50 teachers at the school who would be eligible for the funding, they said that they uncovered more than 169 projects.
Principal Victoria Welling approved the fraudulent applications. She pleaded guilty to the gross misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to commit theft last March and received credit for time served which totaled just more than one day.
Teacher Andrea Fuentes-Soto also pleaded guilty to felony theft. Judge Ron Israel sentenced her to probation last April.
Fuentes-Soto created at least 16 accounts and changed both her first and last name, according to police. Detectives said that they discovered 35 items in her classroom, including kitchenware, a 70-inch television, and an Apple television. An additional 27 items were discovered by police at her home, including iPads, Star Wars, and Power Ranger toys with a value of approximately $3,572.
Authorities also say they seized Fuentes-Soto’s phone and uncovered text message conversations with her husband that included questions such as, “Anything else we need the state to buy?” Along with responses such as, “A new laptop LOL” and requests for multiple items including “Pops Power Rangers” which is in reference to Funko Pops figurines.
Another response via text message included, “I hope we don’t get into trouble.”
Olmstead, Welling, and Fuentes-Soto were fired from the charter school during the investigation.
Olmstead and Welling both have active Nevada teaching licenses. The 8 News Now Investigators previously reached out to the Nevada Department of Education.
A spokesperson sent the following statement:
“There are processes in place for disciplinary action and we are following those processes. When the Department pursues a revocation or suspension of a license by the State Board of Education, the licensee receives a statutorily mandated opportunity for due process prior to a hearing by the Board.”
Olmstead’s attorney said in court Wednesday that he no longer lives in Nevada.