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Former Buffalo School administrator admits to stealing funds

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

A former administrator with the Buffalo Public School District has admitted to stealing government funds.  Debbie Buckley, 56, of Niagara Falls appeared in federal court in Buffalo Wednesday and pled guilty to the theft of Title One funding. 

Buckley is a former Assistant Schools Superintendent in Buffalo. At one time, she was  was in charge of $100-million in Title I federal funds. In March 2010, the district had promoted Buckley to Assistant Superintendent of Federal and State Programs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Resnick is handling the case. "Today she pled guilty to the theft of federal program funds,” said Resnick. "We had alleged the case in a criminal complaint at one time. We believe the facts where very strong against her and that resulted in, we believe, the guilty plea."

Resnick tells WBFO News Buckley fraudulently worked to obtain funds that assist districts with high numbers of children from low-income families.  

The Buffalo School District fired Buckley three years ago after an investigation revealed she directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to companies and individuals close to her, including her son, Hassan El Saddique.

During the investigation it was revealed that an undated letter was discovered on Universal School letterhead.  The letter, addressed to Buckley, requested  Title I funds for a computer assisted program at the Universal School during the 2009-10 school year.  

"Initially a fraudulent school letter that the universal School was requesting Title I funding for a tutor when in fact the letter was forge the principal’s name was forged n that Universal School letterhead. The university school was not requesting any assistance," said Resnick.

El Saddique worked on a volunteer basis a few hours a week at Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo , but never provided assistance to the Universal School.

El Saddique submitted weekly invoices through fraudulent contracts, receiving 18-payments from the school district. 13-were deposited into two accounts controlled by Buckley.    

“Her son had basically a ‘no-show’ job. He would submit invoices on a weekly basis to the Buffalo Public Schools indicating that he worked full-time at one of the schools in Buffalo when in fact he didn’t provide any services and those false invoices resulted in him receiving a little over $15,000 during approximately   a nine month period of time that he wasn’t entitled to," Resnick remarked. 

El Saddique was indicted by a federal grand jury in February of 2015 also on a charge of theft of government funds, but the charge is still pending.

Buckley was also charged in February of 2015.

Under the charges, Buckley would face a ten year maximum prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. She’ll be sentenced sometime in September of this year, but the under her plea it provides for a certain guideline range, which Resnick said is much lower.

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