The former security chief for a Mississippi school district pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzlement.
Prosecutors said 49-year-old Paul Cannette, who had been the security chief for the Biloxi School District from December 2006 to October 2017, embezzled over $169,000 from the Mississippi Association of School Resource Officers, reports WLOX.
MASRO receives funding from the Mississippi Department of Education through the Mississippi Community Oriented Policing in Schools grant.
Logan Reeves, a spokesman for the state auditor’s office, said the investigation was triggered by a complaint alleging misuse of public funds.
“This offense is a particularly egregious because the stolen funds should have gone toward providing safety to our schoolchildren. My office will continue the fight to recover misspent and, in this case, stolen money on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers,” state auditor Stacey Pickering said at the time of Cannette’s Nov. 15 arrest.
Cannette was president and treasurer of the group and controlled its bank account. The more than 600 personal transactions occurred between April 2013 and November 2016 and included checks, ATM withdrawals and direct deposits.
According to Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker, Cannette used the funds for golf trips, dining, pet grooming and jewelry purchases.
Cannette entered the plea deal in Harrison County Circuit Court and is expected to serve up to four years in prison and two additional years on house arrest. He will have to repay a total of $244,819.78, which includes the missing money plus interest and costs of the investigation, reports The Sun Herald.
Cannette’s attorney argued that the stolen funds won’t directly affect Biloxi schools because he embezzled from MASRO and not the school district.
Cannette, who was also previously a Biloxi patrol officer and criminal investigator, said he stole the money to provide a better life for his family.
The Biloxi School District has a certified campus police force that operates independently from the city’s police department.
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