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Couple keeps school district jobs after stealing thousands of fundraising dollars

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 12:43:34-05

A couple working for the Lee County School District as teachers and coaches admit they stole thousands of dollars in fundraising money and aren't facing charges or termination. In comparison, a district employee who stole scrap metal from a school was arrested, jailed, and fired.

James Caprino was a building supervisor at Lehigh Acres Middle School. He worked for the district for nearly 10 years. But one day while on the job, he noticed a pile of scrap metal in the pathway of where students walked. He didn't think anyone would miss it, so he sold it for extra cash.

"Forty-six dollars. And I took that $46 and got $20 of gas in my car. The rest went to purchase the Thanksgiving turkey for my family," Caprino said.

Caprino was charged with Grand Theft and Dealing in Stolen Property. The district said the scrap metal he sold for $46 was worth more than $300. Caprino said he paid the money back to the district, then went before the school board, begging to keep his job. The board voted to fire him.

Last December, the Lee County School district determined Jeff and Marjorie Hanlon -- teachers and coaches at Estero High School -- withheld nearly $6,900 in fundraising checks. The couple also admitted to funneling almost $2,300 of fundraising money into their daughter's bank account. Records show immediately after, they spent the money at Sam's Club, Publix, Abercrombie and Fitch, and American Eagle. The Hanlons -- despite taking thousands more dollars than Caprino -- were never arrested and are still employed by the district.

"Why were they not arrest as well? Why are they not terminated?" Caprino asked.

Four in Your Corner reached out to the Lee County School District. A spokesperson released this statement:

"During the investigation of the Hanlons, clear gaps in financial accounting relating to the Estero High School Booster Club began to materialize. 

It was determined they had rerouted approximately $2,300 to a personal account, and the remaining approximately $6900 was due to sloppy bookkeeping, not theft, relating to sales of school merchandise where the funds had not yet been collected from students.  

When the Hanlons were questioned, they paid back in full the $2300 that was taken. The decision was made at that point to accept the money on behalf of the Booster Club so it could be directed toward student activities as quickly as possible.  

If the District had decided to pursue a termination case, there would have been a cost to taxpayers greater than the amount of money taken, there was no guarantee the case would result in a recommendation for termination, or that the Booster Club would receive it's money back.  

Coach Hanlon received a written reprimand, three days suspension, an indefinite restriction from coaching, a prohibition on handling money for the district, any clubs or sports teams and reassignment. The investigatory file has also been sent to the Florida Department of Education for review.

Mrs. Hanlon is also prohibited from handling money for the district, clubs or sports team and has also been reassigned. Her file has also been sent to the DOE.

Currently Mr. Hanlon is a teacher at Fort Myers Middle Academy and Mrs. Hanlon is a teacher at Bonita Middle School. Both are annual contract employees. 

Re-appointments or non-reappointments occur in May and June of each year pursuant to collective bargaining and Florida Law."

Four in Your Corner also reached out to all school board members. Only Melisa Giovanelli responded to our request for comment. She said in a statement:

"I believe in fairness and equality for all, and it needs to be the same across the board. I've sent an email to our Superintendent asking for more information on this case." 

Caprino went through a diversion program and the charges were dropped, but they're still on his record.