NAPLES, Fla. - The former principal of a Naples special-needs school now faces federal charges. Investigators say Larry Christopher misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school.
Journeys Academy suddenly shutdown just before the start of the 2009 school year. Now, federal investigators say former principal and Chief Financial Officer Larry Christopher is to blame.
Close to 80 special-needs students were left with no place to go to school last August after Journeys Academy shutdown with next to no notice.
"I'm just devastated. I liked the school. Sarah was doing really well there," parent Jane Graydon said last August, after hearing the school would not reopen for the 2009-2010 school year.
Now, new details from a federal investigation reveal what led the closure. The U.S. Secret Service and Collier County Sheriff's Office arrested the former principal and C.F.O Larry Christopher for wire fraud. He's accused of misappropriating $350,000 dollars from the school. Much of the money was borrowed from parents and staff members.
"He told me that he would do this with a couple of parents and I believed him," Christopher's former assistant, Kathryn Leftwich said Wednesday.
Leftwich worked as Christopher's assistant at the Academy. She says she lent him $20,000 dollars, money she thought it was going toward improving the school.
"He had said the money was to make payments for payroll and some expenses, and they were also trying to get a new space... that they just needed short-term money, but everything was going to be fine when they got the money back from the state," Leftwich said.
But Journeys Academy is still vacant more than a year later. As for Leftwich, she hasn't seen a penny from the man she says parents, staff, and students trusted.
"I just couldn't believe it because the man seemed like an angel," Leftwich said.
Christopher's been in trouble before. He served two years in federal prison for mail fraud amounting to $1.5 million dollars in damages. Christopher is currently being held in the Lee County Jail.