Former Academy of Dover Principal Indicted on Theft Charges - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Former Academy of Dover Principal Indicted on Theft Charges

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Noel Rodriguez (Photo credit: Delaware State News) Noel Rodriguez (Photo credit: Delaware State News)

DOVER, Del.- The former principal of the Academy of Dover charter school has been indicted on four counts of federal program theft and faces up to 40 years in prison, the United States attorney for the District of Delaware announced Thursday.

Noel Rodriguez, 55, formerly of Dover, may also have to pay fines and restitution if convicted. 

According to the indictment, during each of the years 2011 to 2014, while employed as the principal of the Academy of Dover, Rodriguez embezzled at least $5,000 of money or property belonging to the school.  During that time period, the Indictment alleges, the charter school received yearly federal funding in excess of $10,000 from the United States Department of Education.  This funding provides the basis for the federal program theft charges.

June 2015 audit conducted by Delaware's state auditor said Rodriguez used school funds to pay for more than $125,000 in personal items. Auditor Thomas Wagner's report also said Rodriguez used school funds to pay legal fees for lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, reimburse employees for alcohol purchases, and give financial rewards to teachers without adequate justification.

The auditor's report also found roughly $130,000 in other expenditures that could not be validated as either school or personal purchases. 

Academy of Dover received more than $10,000 in federal funding annually while Rodriguez was employed by the school, according to prosecutors, who said funding provides the basis for the federal program theft charges.

According to WBOC media partner the Delaware State News, Delaware's state auditor received a tip in August 2014, and the Department of Education and the school’s board of directors launched an investigation. Rodriguez resigned the following month at the request of the board.

Academy of Dover opened in 2003 and serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General and the Delaware Attorney General's Office, with assistance from the Delaware auditor. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Van Pelt is prosecuting the case.

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