Former Lincoln-Way superintendent indicted on fraud charges
The former superintendent of the Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 was indicted last month on multiple counts of misappropriation of school funds by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. The federal indictment followed a yearlong investigation by the Daily Southtown.
A six-count federal indictment issued on Sept. 13 by the U.S. attorney detailed Lawrence Wyllie alleged scheme to defraud the district and obtain money under false pretenses. He is accused of misusing bond money and fraudulently spending school district funds on personal projects. Prosecutors allege Wyllie’s misappropriation of school district funds and resources occurred through both the understatement of operating expenditures and misuse of bond funds.
According to a report on WGN, between March 2010 and October 2012, Wyllie is accused of inappropriately reclassifying and transferring district bond funds to cover operating expenses. Court documents allege that Wyllie made false statements to the school board, bond purchasers and the public about such financial dealings. It is alleged that these actions allowed Wyllie to conceal “the school district’s true financial health” as well as create an appearance of lowering the district's net operating expenditures in its audited financial statements.
The indictment also outlines Wyllie’s misuse of district funding to cover personal projects that are alleged to have provided no benefit to the school district, including the creation of a training school for dogs on school property. Known as Superdog, the business might have had no ties to the district’s education of students.
Prosecutors also allege that Wyllie misappropriated at least $16,500 of district funds when he retired in 2013 by falsely representing that said funds were a retirement stipend. However, the Daily Southtown’s investigation indicated that the terms of Wyllie’s 2010-2015 employment contract did not include the payment of a such a retiree stipend among its terms. Wyllie is further accused of misappropriating $14,000 in district funds for personal gain by falsely representing unused vacation days.
Wyllie became the superintendent in Lincoln-Way, which primarily serves student in Frankfort, New, Mokena, Manhattan and Tinley Park, in 1989. Before his retirement in 2013, Wyllie oversaw expansion in the district from a single high school to four campuses. In 2006, district residents passed a referendum that helped build new schools that were estimated as needed to accommodate projected population growth. According to the Chicago Tribute, however, that population growth never materialized, and Lincoln-Way’s financial situation began to decline. In 2015, Lincoln-Way was placed on the state’s financial watch list. The same year, the school board voted to close the district’s Lincoln-Way North campus as a cost-savings measure.
According to the Illinois News Network, the Taxpayer Education Foundation indicated Wyllie is now receiving an annual pension of nearly $290,000, a figure reportedly higher than for any other retired superintendent in Illinois.
In a statement issued by District 210, Lincoln-Way is not making further comments on the case but the board will continue to work with administration to help the district move forward.
According to the U.S. attorney, if convicted Wyllie faces up to 20 years in prison on each of five counts of wire fraud and up to 10 years of prison for one count of embezzlement