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Former Cuyahoga Heights IT chief suspected of stealing millions from schools
A state audit alleges more that $4.2 million was used for purchases the school district never received

Ozie Ikuenobe

The man who was in charge of buying high tech equipment for a northeast Ohio school district is suspected of stealing millions of dollars from the schools.

A special state audit accuses former IT Director Joseph Palazzo of stealing more than 4.2 million dollars from the Cuyahoga Heights School District between 2007 and 2011.

Palazzo allegedly used companies owned by his brother and friends to provide hundreds of dummy invoices for equipment, including Blackberries and laptops.  The audit says he collected up to 1.3 million dollars in kickbacks.

State Auditor Dave Yost says a lack of separation of duties in the district allowed this to happen.

Yost on the money theft

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“Typically, we don’t want people to control both ends of the financial transaction, because it’s too easy to cook the books. So, you have one person that authorizes the checks, you have another person that checks the inventory to assure that it was received.”

Yost says he’s been told some of Palazzo’s property had been seized to repay the district.

A similar scheme in Cleveland led to the conviction of its former chief financial officer, Daniel Burns.

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