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November 26, 2014

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Five, including former program director, indicted in case involving misuse of CCSD funds

A department head with the Clark County School District stole nearly $300,000 from her employer by falsifying time sheets, purchasing electronics for herself and taking money collected from students in the Adult English Language Acquisition program, according to a 52-count indictment handed down by a grand jury today.

Priscilla Rocha, who is also the Nevada director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, retired in April as head of the English program amid a Metro Police investigation into the alleged thefts, which investigators say occurred between October 2005 and March 2014. She faces charges that include burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and unlawful use of public money.

Also indicted were Rocha's son, Jerome Rocha; activist Andres Mendoza, who formerly led LULAC's local branch; Donnie Placencia; and Jaime Espitia.

Rocha's department, which has since been shut down, provided literacy and life skills classes to non-English-speaking parents of CCSD students. The program also provided free notary services, domestic violence referrals, GED referrals and continuing education referrals.

It had a budget of $1.09 million, which was funded with state grants. The department staffed 22 full-time and part-time employees, according to the district.

Department coordinator Esther Vargas remains on paid administrative leave through the ongoing police investigation, school district officials said. She earns about $106,260 yearly, plus $2,300 in longevity pay, according to the district.

Three other department employees are on administrative leave without pay, while all other staff have been reassigned to other departments.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky told reporters Friday afternoon that the district plans to launch an internal investigation and create an electronic time sheet filing system to verify payments more efficiently, noting that other changes would come as more details in the case are released.

"Any time we are taking resources away from students and families it stresses me completely. We can’t allow this," Skorkowsky said. "We are so strapped for resources as it is that we cannot afford to let anybody take anything out of our students' hands."

Brian Nordli contributed to this report.

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