How Did a Cafeteria Worker Steal over a Million Dollars?

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By Barry Burch Jr.

A former cafeteria manager was arrested by Fulton County school police for allegedly stealing hundreds of dollars every day for at least five years, according to Channel 2 Action News.

Reporter Richard Belcher said arrest warrants indicate that the amount of money stolen from the North Springs High School in Fulton County could reach $1 million.

The story first gained attention last spring.  A cafeteria worker told Channel 2 Action News that her manager was running a cash-only line, but there were no records to illustrate how much was being accumulated or that the line was even supposed to be there in the first place.

Today, police are saying the scheme was incredibly profitable and went on for far too long.  According to WSB-TV Atlanta 2, a whistleblower submitted video of the cafeteria at North Springs.  Four lines can be seen with a cash register at the end of each one, collecting money.  A blue cart all by itself, selling a-la-carte items for cash did not have a register.

The manager suspected of heading the criminal operation is Brenda Watts.  Fulton County school police obtained 10 arrest warrants for her.  They accuse Watts of stealing $500 a day from the cafeteria.  That comes out to $2,500 every week and $90,000 every year as reported by the news station.  And if Watts truly was consistently stealing, at the 15th year mark, she would have accumulated an astonishing $1,350,000.

In 2013, Belcher asked a former cafeteria worker, Beth Walsh, how long the a la-carte line had been in use.  Walsh responded, “At least 15 years. Up to maybe 20.”

The arrest warrants also show Watts’ personal life to be more than revealing.  Not only does she live in a 5,400 square-foot, five-bedroom home, but when Belcher attempted to obtain her side of the story, he reported seeing a Mercedes pulling out of the garage.

Watts retired from North Springs in June after having worked there for more than 26 years.  Though Walsh was relieved of her position, she says that she would not change blowing the whistle.

“You know, just, if you feel like something’s going on, look into it.  You could be wrong.  But if you’re right, you’re doing the right thing,” Walsh said.

Part of a statement from Deputy Fulton County School Superintendent Patrick Burke reads, “Beyond taking appropriate personnel actions, when a potential crime occurs, we will investigate and work with law enforcement to prosecute to the full extent of the law.”

Barry is a student of life.  Other than writing, he enjoys arithmetic and politics.  Reach him @