A former Lubbock educator pleads guilty to felony theft and faces up 10-years in prison. Janie Esparza, 60, accepted the plea agreement in federal court Thursday. Her official charge is theft from an organization receiving federal funds.
According to court papers, Esparza served as Lubbock Independent School District's Bilingual English as a Second Language (ESL) Coordinator and managed the budget for that program. Esparza pleaded guilty to stealing money from the program for her own personal use. LISD received the money through Title III, of the "No Child Left Behind Act" which were federal funds.
Prosecutors say the multiple thefts occurred from September of 2004 through January of 2007. During that time, investigators say Esparza created fake receipts and invoices to justify program advances and reimbursement from the school district. The documents do not say exactly how much Esparza took, but the plea agreement requires her to pay $13,000 in restitution to LISD and the Department of Education.
Esparza also agreed to voluntarily surrender her Texas Educator Certificate. She will not be allowed to re-apply for another one. Esparza will be sentenced at a later date. She faces up to 10-years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
LISD tells NewsChannel 11 that Esparza started teaching for the district in August of 1976. She retired as the ESL Coordinator at the end of February 2007.
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