Crying Fowl

Close-up detail of a man shopping in a supermarket

The Illinois State Attorney is crying fowl and accusing public school worker, Vera Liddell, of a $1.5 million embezzlement scheme. On January 31, 2023, Liddell, a food service director for Harvey school system near Chicago, was charged with stealing 11,000 cases of chicken wings using district county school lunch money. Now that is a Super Bowl party!

The alleged fraud began at the height of COVID during a time when students were not allowed to be physically present in school. Even though the children were learning remotely, thanks to the United States Department of Agriculture, school districts across the country were able to provide meals for the students that their families could pick up.

From July 2020 until February 2022, Liddell allegedly placed hundreds of unauthorized orders for chicken wings along with the legitimate orders made by the school district. Liddell was the only one responsible for placing food orders on behalf of the district. Fraudsters love it when no one else can question their actions! Gordon Food Service believed all the purchases sent by Liddell were authorized and billed the district for everything. After placing her allegedly fraudulent orders for wings, Liddell allegedly would pick up the food in a school district cargo van. Employees at the Gordon Food Service told investigators they were all familiar with Liddell because of the “massive amount of chicken wings she would purchase. I bet they were!

The scheme was discovered when a manager conducted a routine mid-year audit and found the district had exceeded its annual budget by over $300,000 despite only being halfway through the school year. Upon closer review, she discovered individual invoices signed by Liddell for the massive quantities of chicken wings, an item that was never served to students because they contain bones. Liddell should have orders boneless chicken wings.

Great job by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in this investigation.

Liddell is scheduled to appear in court again in late February.

Today’s Fraud Of The Day is based on article “Illinois woman charged with stealing $1.5M in chicken district” published by Fox News on January 31, 2023

The Illinois woman accused of stealing $1.5 million in food, mostly chicken wings, over nearly two years from a school district was discovered after an audit revealed the district was hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget despite only being halfway through the school year, according to court documents.

Vera Liddell, 66, allegedly placed hundreds of unauthorized food orders with Gordon Food Service, the main food supplier to the Harvey School District 152. The scheme ran from July 2020 to February 2022, during the COVID-19 pandemic, prosecutors said.


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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.