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Nuria Mathog, Contributing Editor
10:42 pm CST November 22, 2019

A former Lincoln-Way Central employee faces 11 criminal charges after allegedly stealing money from the Lincoln-Way Central Athletic Booster Club by using a fraudulent spreadsheet and forging signatures of the organization’s leadership.

Melissa McGrath, 51, of 15628 Waterford Lane, in Manhattan, was arrested the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 22 and charged with five counts of theft, two counts of identification theft, two counts of theft by deception and two counts of forgery, according to a press release issued the same evening by the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

McGrath, a former LWC athletics office assistant, resigned from her position in June, a month after Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 launched an internal investigation into financial discrepancies in Booster records.

The Will County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating the case since Aug. 6, when deputies initially met with administrators in reference to suspicious financial transgressions that had been discovered on the Boosters’ accounting books, according to the Nov. 22 press release. At this time, the Lincoln-Way administration reported that an internal investigation had been conducted, and it was thought that McGrath was fraudulently taking money from the Boosters by running two sets of financial books, police said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, an investigation found more than $30,000 in Booster funds were missing from August 2017 through April 2019. The investigation reportedly determined McGrath presented the Boosters with a Booster account spreadsheet that she created and submitted to the district, and that several submitted reports contained forged signatures of members of the athletic club board.

McGrath was arrested at her home, according to police. She is being held at the Will County Adult Detention Facility on a $200,000 bond.

As previously reported by The New Lenox Patriot, former LWC Athletic Director Matt Lyke resigned Aug. 22 after holding the position for three years at LWC after eight at now-shuttered LW North. Lyke is now listed as the interim director of activities at Homewood-Flossmoor High School on HF’s website.

D210 Superintendent Scott Tingley issued the following statement: 

“While following established procedures for the development of the annual budget, Lincoln-Way 210 administration identified discrepancies in certain revenue accounts in the Lincoln-Way Central Athletic Department. As a result of the investigation, District administration has implemented several new internal controls that focus on cash handling procedures in order to help deter and detect fraud and theft going forward.

1. Increased Segregation of Duties in Cash Handling – deposits will be handled by two employees until counted and deposit receipts have been filled out.  All deposit slips are pre-numbered so the District can track and control access to the forms.  All cash deposits are placed in a tamper proof bag once dual counted and verified.  Finally, a separate copy of the deposit slip is sent to the District business office for reconciliation purposes.

2. Event sales now use pre-numbered tickets and a ticket/cash reconciliation must be performed and turned into the District business office the same day as the event.

3. Outside groups, coaches, and activity sponsors are required to verify deposits and expenditures directly in the District accounting system to ensure accuracy.

The District has turned the financial loss into our insurance and the money will be replenished into the Boosters account."

A timeline of events

A breakdown of the events that led to Will County State’s Attorney investigation into missing funds from Lincoln-Way Central’s Athletic Department

• 2016 - Money begins to go missing from Lincoln-Way Central Athletic Boosters, but is not discovered until bookkeeping records are compared with D210’s in 2019.

• Late spring/early summer 2019 - The “original concern” over discrepancies in sporting event gate receipts is uncovered during an audit in preparation of the district’s annual budget.

• May 7 - D210 launches a month-long internal investigation led by D210 administration, D210’s independent inspector general and the accounting firm of Sikich LLP.

• June 24 - The resignation of longtime LWC athletics secretary Melissa McGrath is accepted by the board of education.

• July 19 - Results of the internal investigation are turned over to Lincoln-Way D210 Board of Education. The investigation found no evidence of fraud related to the discrepancies in sporting event gate receipts.

• Aug. 5 - Lincoln-Way Central Athletic Boosters meet with D210 administration regarding the Boosters’ current account balance. It is discovered that the accounts do not match. The Will County Sheriff’s Department is contacted.

• Aug. 6 - The Will County Sheriff’s Department begins its investigation into the matter of missing funds from Lincoln-Way Central Athletic Boosters.

• Aug. 22 - Twelve-year district Athletic Director Matt Lyke resigns.

• Nov. 22 - McGrath arrested, charged with five counts of theft, two counts of identification theft, two counts of theft by deception and two counts of forgery