NEW LENOX, Ill. — Lawrence Wyllie served as the Lincoln-Way High School district superintendent for almost 25 years, overseeing the district’s expansion from a single school to four campuses.
Now he has been indicted on wire fraud and embezzlement charges stemming from his time as the head of the district. Prosecutors say the 79-year-old took district money for himself.
“The money obviously should have went toward education,” said Cami Moss, a recent Lincoln-Way Central H.S. graduate.
Last year, WGN Investigates searched for Wyllie in an attempt to get answers to allegations that he was misusing bond funds for his personal projects. The U.S. attorney issued a five-count federal indictment Thursday, detailing how Wyllie came up with a scheme to defraud and to obtain money under false pretenses.
The indictment alleges Wyllie misused school district funds and resources, and reclassified millions of dollars, using district bond money on personal projects that were not for the benefit of the school district.” Among them: the opening of “Superdog,” a training school for dogs that had no relationship to the education of students in the district.
“It’s just a shame that people in a trusted position would misuse funds, when it’s supposed to be all about the kids,” said Jennifer Giblin, a district parent.
The indictment says Wyllie tried to keep the school board in the dark and concealed the "scheme and the true financial health” of the district, setting it on a course for major fiscal problems. Prosecutors say Wyllie’s actions caused Lincoln-Way to assume at least $7 million in additional debt.
In a statement to the Chicago Tribune, Wyllie’s attorneys said the former superintendent, "did not receive any funds or profit as a result of the bonds issued by the school district. All of the bond money referenced in the indictment was expended on school related issues."
Thursday the district issued a statement saying it is complying with federal authorities and is "committed to protecting taxpayer dollars."
“Something should happen to him because everyone gets away with things nowadays," said Cami Moss, a recent Lincoln-Way Central H.S. Graduate
Wyllie retired in 2013 and receives a district pension of more than $300,000 dollars a year. If convicted, each wire fraud count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, and the embezzlement charge would carry a 10-year sentence.