A cafeteria worker has recently been accused of stealing from the North Springs High School in north Fulton County. And this is no case of petty theft: having spent five years stealing at an estimated rate of $500 a day, former cafeteria manager Brenda Watts has allegedly pocketed up to 1 million dollars of students’ lunch money.
The story first surfaced last spring, when it became known that the manager was running a “cash-only line for which there were no records.” Footage from the cafeteria revealed information that supported the cafeteria worker’s claim: of the cafeteria’s five food lines, four had a cash register that kept track of incoming money. The fifth line led up to a blue cart that never had a register, and sold items for cash only.
Last spring, when former cafeteria worker Beth Walsh was asked how long the a-la-carte line had been running, her response was startling. “At least 15 years. Maybe 20,” she said. Walsh has since been fired, but says she doesn’t regret turning in her former boss. Watts had worked for the school system for 26 years before retiring last June. She announced her retirement one day after the story’s details first emerged.
Assuming that the police estimate of $500 per day holds true, Watts was making out with some $90,000 in a school year. Over the course of the 15 years she worked the cart, her total comes out to an astonishing 1.3 million dollars. Police have dubbed the case a “long-running and extremely profitable theft scheme.” Ten arrest warrants have been issued for Watts. When investigative reporter Richard Belcher showed up at her home for comment on this story, his presence went seemingly unacknowledged.
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However, only moments later, a Mercedes pulled out of the garage and sped away. One is left to wonder how such a sum could have gone missing unnoticed from a school cafeteria, and why no one ever questioned the cash-only cart’s presence before. Perhaps Watts’ five-bedroom, 5,400 square-foot home should also have raised some questions concerning the truth behind what kind of income the cafeteria worker was bringing in.
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