Former Valley Academy CTED Business Manager Indicted For Theft

VACTE provided career and technical education to about 1,000 high school students in Camp Verde, Sedona, and Cottonwood.

justice money

A former business manager for Valley Academy for Career and Technical Education (VACTE), Celestia Ziemkowski, has been charged with 19 counts related to theft, misuse of public monies, fraudulent schemes, computer tampering, and forgery.

“In May 2016 Ziemkowski resigned after a VACTE employee questioned her about certain credit card purchases. Ziemkowski acknowledged the purchases were hers,” according to the Auditor General’s report, “and subsequently paid VACTE $4,996 for some of those purchases.”

The Arizona Auditor General’s Office said VACTE officials “took appropriate action” by reporting the allegations.

The Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education (VACTE) was established in 2001 by approval of the citizens of the Verde Valley and Sedona. VACTE is one of fourteen Career and Technical Education Districts (CTEDs) in Arizona.

As a result of VACTE’s report, the Auditor General’s Office found that from June 2015 through March 2016, Ziemkowski, “may have embezzled VACTE monies when she issued 5 unauthorized warrants totaling $19,851 for her personal purposes and used a VACTE credit card to make personal purchases totaling $10,746. Ms. Ziemkowski may have also falsified VACTE documents and information in VACTE’s accounting software and Governing Board packets to conceal her actions.”

Findings:

In fiscal year 2018, VACTE had revenues of approximately $1.5 million and provided career and technical education to about 1,000 high school students in Camp Verde, Sedona, and Cottonwood.

VACTE hired Celestia Ziemkowski in 2003 as an administrative assistant and promoted her to business manager about 2 years later.

In July and December 2015, Ms. Ziemkowski’s login credentials were used to issue 3 warrants totaling $15,208 payable to her personal credit card companies, a $3,643 warrant payable to her husband’s credit card company, and a $1,000 warrant payable to her friend.

Within a week of each warrant’s issuance, Ms. Ziemkowski’s login credentials were used to change VACTE’s accounting software, altering the warrants’ actual unauthorized payees to authorized payees, thus making it falsely appear as if the warrants were issued for valid VACTE purposes. Consequently, associated expense voucher packets that Ms. Ziemkowski produced for Governing Board approval included this false payee information and helped to conceal her actions.

From June 2015 through February 2016, Ms. Ziemkowski used her VACTE credit card to make 97 personal purchases totaling $10,965 and 3 returns ($219), netting a total amount of $10,746. She made these purchases at retail, grocery, and home improvement stores; hotels; restaurants; gas stations; and utility companies.

Moreover, in January and March 2016, Ms. Ziemkowski provided 3 forged documents she falsely represented as VACTE credit card
statements to a VACTE employee for her use in reconciling credit card transactions to receipts. These forged credit card statements omitted 49 of Ms. Ziemkowski’s personal purchases and returns totaling $4,363 and contained numerous other discrepancies such as mathematically incorrect balances; erroneous account names, numbers, and addresses; and inaccurate payment received and payment due amounts.

Subsequently, the VACTE employee compiled a list of 64 transactions totaling $6,191 from November 2015 through February 2016 that did not have receipts and questioned Ms. Ziemkowski about them. As mentioned earlier, Ms. Ziemkowski acknowledged the purchases were hers and paid VACTE for some of them before resigning in May 2016. Specifically, she paid a total of $4,996 by forfeiting $3,796 of her pay and writing VACTE a $1,200 personal check.

Subsequently, the VACTE employee compiled a list of 64 transactions totaling $6,191 from November 2015 through February 2016 that did not have receipts and questioned Ms. Ziemkowski about them. As mentioned earlier, Ms. Ziemkowski acknowledged the purchases were hers and paid VACTE for some of them before resigning in May 2016. Specifically, she paid a total of $4,996 by forfeiting $3,796 of her pay and writing VACTE a $1,200 personal check.

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