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Former Uptown Principal Charged With Stealing $200K From CPS In Bogus Overtime Payments, Feds Allege

Sarah Jackson Abedelal approved false overtime payments at Brennemann Elementary School and then ordered school employees to give her the cash, according to a federal indictment.

Joseph Brennemann School in Uptown.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — The former principal of Brennemann Elementary School in Uptown has been charged with defrauding Chicago Public Schools out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a years-long, bogus overtime payout scheme, according to a federal indictment.

Sarah Jackson Abedelal was arrested Wednesday, accused of stealing at least $200,000 from CPS in the overtime scheme she ran from 2012 to 2019, when she was removed from her post amid accusations of “significant financial misconduct.”

Abedelal allegedly approved overtime payments to school employees for hours they did not work and then instructed the workers to return the payments to her, federal investigators allege in an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

After approving the phony overtime pay, Abedelal told employees to withdraw the overtime funds in cash on the day their check were deposited. The employees would then give Abedelal the cash — or in one case, gift cards — in her office or in a school classroom, the indictment alleges.

Abedelal allegedly told employees the money would be used for school expenses. Instead, she pocketed the cash. To conceal the scheme, Abedelal used the fraudulently obtained cash to purchase money orders at a currency exchange.

She then used the money orders on personal expenses including her mortgage, according to the indictment.

Abedelal, 57, has been charged with 10 counts of wire fraud. She is scheduled to appear in federal court later Wednesday.

Abedelal was assisted in the scheme by an assistant principal and three business managers at Brennemann, according to the indictment. It does not appear these employees, who are not named in court records, have been charged.

In 2017, Abedelal was named to CPS’s independent school principals program, which gives certain principals with more autonomy and less district oversight, according to Uptown Update.

The CPS inspector general said there were “serious concerns” about Abedelal’s conduct and recommended removing her from the job, which district leaders did in April 2019.

Abedelal could not be reached for comment Wednesday. CPS spokesperson James Gherardi said in a statement the allegations amount to a “betrayal of trust unbecoming of any public servant, especially those who serve students and families.”

“This type of conduct has no place at Chicago Public Schools,” Gherardi said.

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