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School bookkeeper jailed after ‘borrowing’ book fair funds

December 6, 2018

A bookkeeper for the Pojoaque Valley School District is being held in the Santa Fe County jail on suspicion of stealing $1,374 from a book fair for fourth- and fifth-graders.

Elenarae Lopez was booked in the jail on a felony embezzlement charge Wednesday, a day after a county magistrate signed a warrant for her arrest.

An affidavit for the arrest warrant, written by a Santa Fe County sheriff’s detective, says Superintendent Melville Morgan told deputies in late November that someone had stolen money from the district’s book fair proceeds.

Morgan, reached by phone Wednesday, declined to comment on whether Lopez is still employed with the district, citing the confidentiality of personnel records.

Lopez — a bookkeeper for the intermediate school, Morgan said — was one of two people who helped count proceeds from the fair held Nov. 14 and 15. Instead of taking the money to the school’s business manager after it was counted, the affidavit says, Lopez put it in a school vault.

When employees returned to school following the Thanksgiving break, the affidavit says, the district’s business manager discovered more than $1,300 missing from the book fair money bags.

Lopez, meanwhile, had been missing from work since Nov. 16, apparently on sick leave, Morgan told deputies.

On Monday, Morgan said, Lopez came back to work and admitted to “borrowing the money.”

When questioned by sheriff’s deputies, she said she took about $1,000, the affidavit says. She told deputies she needed help paying bills, so she went into the school over the Thanksgiving holiday and took money from the book fair bags in the vault, but “she intended to pay the money back.”

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