The Burbank Unified School District (BUSD) is grappling with a serious breach of trust following the discovery of an alleged embezzlement case involving a district office clerical employee.
In an email sent on Monday, November 7, BUSD Superintendent Dr. John Paramo detailed the sequence of events leading to the discovery of the alleged embezzlement. “On October 26, 2023, district staff detected suspicious activity regarding the cash collected from parent fees for the afterschool programs,” Dr. Paramo wrote. “By October 27, the employee believed to be responsible for the misappropriation of funds was identified and confessed to the crime and resigned from her employment with the District.”
The employee in question, Penelope Cuevas, a 38-year-old woman from Burbank, worked as a Senior Secretary in the Child Development department. She was specifically involved with the Around the Bell afterschool program, which was identified as one of the programs affected by the alleged theft.
Sgt. Steven Turner of the Burbank Police Department confirmed the police’s involvement in the case. “The Burbank Unified School District notified the Burbank Police Department of an embezzlement of funds by a district employee, who worked as an Afterschool Childcare Coordinator, on October 30, 2023. Officers took the report from BUSD officials and conducted a follow-up investigation, which resulted in the arrest of Penelope Cuevas,” Sgt. Turner stated.
Despite the swift action taken by the district and the police, the incident has left a significant impact. An internal audit conducted by the district identified a loss so far as approximately $10,000. However, Dr. Paramo indicated that a third-party forensic auditor would be brought in to confirm the full extent of the loss. “The internal audit puts the loss at around $10K. However, we have a third-party forensic auditor who will go over the entire accounting for ATB. They will officially identify the extent of the loss. The audit is just getting started,” Dr. Paramo explained.
While the financial loss is a concern, the breach of trust has been deeply unsettling for the community. Dr. Paramo expressed his regret over the incident, stating, “We are deeply saddened and outraged by this breach of trust, and we apologize to our staff, parents and the community for this unfortunate situation.”
The district has assured stakeholders that the loss did not affect any of the families who paid cash to the District and that it is committed to recovering the stolen money. It also plans to improve its cash receipting and depositing procedures in the afterschool programs to prevent such incidents in the future.
Turner also said that per current LA County bail rules, Cuevas was released with a citation and is due to appear in court on January 4, 2024. The case has been submitted to the Burbank City Attorney’s Office for review and filing consideration.