Warren school club president faces embezzlement, drug charges

By: Brian Louwers, Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 21, 2019

 Ronald Earl Davis

Ronald Earl Davis

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WARREN — Investigators allege that the president of the PEP (Parents, Educators, Pupils) Club at Westview Lower Elementary School in the Fitzgerald Public Schools district stole more than $13,000 since last October by failing to pay invoices for fundraisers and instead withdrawing money or writing checks for cash.

Ronald Earl Davis, 43, of Warren, was arraigned in the 37th District Court March 21 on one count of embezzlement between $1,000-$20,000 from a nonprofit organization, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Davis was also charged with narcotics possession after cocaine was allegedly found in his residence by investigating officers.

“On Feb. 18, a complaint was filed with this department regarding the possible embezzlement of funds from the Westview Elementary (PEP Club),” Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said March 21. “The complaint was over $13,000 was missing from the (PEP) account. This department investigated the complaint and identified the (PEP) president as the suspect.

“We believe that between October 2018 and February of this year he failed to pay (PEP) fundraiser invoices and withdrew large sums of money from the (PEP) bank account for both cash transactions and checks written to cash, which totaled over $13,000,” Dwyer said.

Police reportedly executed a search warrant at Davis’ home on Panama Street in Warren March 20, where they seized account records and cocaine.

“He had admitted to taking the funds to support his addiction habit,” Dwyer said.

Davis requested a court-appointed attorney at his arraignment. Magistrate Annette Gattari-Ross set bail at $100,000. Pending his ability to post bail, he was ordered to refrain from contact with the school and the PEP Club. He was also prohibited from using drugs or alcohol, and would be required to wear an alcohol-monitoring tether as a condition of his release to house arrest.

The next court date in the case was set for 9:30 a.m. April 4.

Fitzgerald Public Schools Superintendent Laurie Fournier posted a letter on the district’s website to the Fitzgerald community about the incident March 21.

“I regret to inform you that the Warren Police Department announced today that a former Westview Lower Elementary parent volunteer was arrested and charged with allegedly embezzling over $13,000 in funds from the Westview Lower Elementary PEP account,” the letter states. “The money in question comes directly from parent fundraisers and is used to enhance the educational experience of all students at Westview Elementary.”

According to the letter, Westview Principal Rebecca Akins was notified last month by a fundraising vendor that a September 2018 invoice had not been paid. The parent volunteer involved with the fundraiser was questioned and it was determined a report be filed with Warren Police. On the same day, the parent volunteer was asked not to return as a member of the PEP Club, according to the letter.

District officials said the incident is an isolated case and there is no evidence that any other current or former PEP officers were involved or had knowledge of the alleged embezzlement.

According to the superintendent, school officials will be increasing the amount of training and support provided to each of the district’s parent organizations so that best practices in accounting and oversights are followed.

In the meantime, the district will provide assistance to the Westview PEP Club as it attempts to recoup lost funds.

 

 

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