Published January 7, 2016 by Brandi Ball (NewsOn6)
The Bristow school board president has been charged with funneling more than $20,000 to herself during her tenure as the director of a local daycare, documents show.
Patricia Joy “Trish” Lawrence, 46, is facing 11 felony counts and four misdemeanor counts of embezzlement from the Tendercare Learning Center, where she was the director from 2012-2014, according to a filing by the Creek County District Attorney late Wednesday. A warrant for her arrest also was issued on Wednesday.
The Bristow Public Schools website says Lawrence’s term as school board president goes through 2020.
An affidavit says Lawrence wrote large checks to herself for services purported to have been rendered by other companies. It also alleges that when she was asked to step down as director, she instructed other employees via phone and text messages to destroy financial paperwork.
According to investigators, Lawrence took over as director of the center after the owner – her sister – died of cancer in 2012. Other family members who work at the facility said they noticed Tendercare had been losing money since Lawrence became director.
Documents say checks for large amounts of cash were written payable to Lawrence and her husband Billy, with Lawrence claiming in the memo they were for cleaning supplies and services, managerial service, building supplies, store supplies, office furniture, mowing and lawn mower. Other items in the memo portion of checks said “headstart” or “fundraiser.”
Lawrence’s niece said she couldn’t find any receipts backing up the purchases cited in the check memos and that no new furniture or lawn mowers actually had been purchased for the center.
A woman who owns a bookkeeping agency and was hired by TLC to watch over its books told officials she “did not understand why Patricia was writing these checks to herself for the above items when she could have written the checks to the companies that she had obtained the items from,” the affidavit says.
The suspicions of the family were compounded by the fact that Lawrence didn’t supply receipts and couldn’t provide information about the items she claimed to have purchased, documents say.
According to the bookkeeper, who also prepared taxes for the center, Lawrence’s husband was not on the center’s payroll, but she found numerous handwritten company checks signed by Patricia and made out to Billy Lawrence.
The affidavit says that in 2013, Patricia earned a salary of $33,280 as the director of the center. She received an additional income of $20,995 off checks she wrote to herself, and her husband received $12,010.50 from TLC company checks written to him by Patricia, the document says.
In 2014, Patricia received an additional income of $36,500.52 from company checks she wrote to herself, the affidavit says. Her husband received $15,024.02 from TLC checks written to him by Patricia, investigators say.
A teacher’s assistant at the center told authorities she received a call from Patricia Lawrence in August 2014, and Patricia said she was getting fired, but didn’t say why. Patricia asked the assistant if she would go to the office and gather her boxes from the office and bring them to her home, the affidavit says. Several days later, the assistant said Patricia called her and asked her to throw away the cash receipt book.
The affidavit says a veteran teacher at the facility received a text message from Patricia around the same time asking her to do the same thing.
According to the women, employee protocol was to take cash payments from parents whose children attended the center and parents were provided with a written receipt in the book. Employees collected the cash, provided receipts, then they would turn over the cash to Patricia.Follow @FortySixNews