The former Secretary of the Jasper R-5 Board of Education will serve two and a half years in prison for embezzling $145,716.81 from the district between 2013 and Sept. 22, 2016, when she resigned.

The former Secretary of the Jasper R-5 Board of Education will serve two and a half years in prison for embezzling $145,716.81 from the district between 2013 and Sept. 22, 2016, when she resigned.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool ordered Karla Justice, then known as Karla Jessee, to surrender herself to prison on Sept. 11, 2018 to begin serving 30 months in prison after she pleaded guilty in February to one count of wire fraud and one count of credit card fraud.
She will serve the sentence at a facility near her family and will undergo mental health treatment.
Harpool ruled after a hearing at the federal courthouse in Springfield that lasted about an hour and 15 minutes in which the judge heard Justice's allocution to the crimes and heard impact statements from current and former Jasper school officials and others.
After she serves her 30-month prison sentence, Harpool sentenced Justice to three years of supervised probation and she must repay the money she stole.

According to federal court records, Justice was employed as the head bookkeeper, payroll secretary, superintendent secretary, and board secretary for the Jasper R-5 School District from 2009 until her resignation on Sept. 22, 2016.
Justice’s positions with the school district gave her unrestricted access to the account and payroll systems for the school district, as well as the district’s petty cash checkbook and signatory authority for this account. Justice essentially had unlimited access to every aspect of the account and human resources functions for the district.
When she pleaded guilty in February, Justice admitted that she paid herself $80,858 in additional payroll above and beyond the amount allowed under her employment contract. As a result of the fraudulently received payroll, Justice also received an additional $6,731 in employer retirement contributions and $6,530 in Social Security and Medicare contributions that she would not have received otherwise.
The investigation also discovered numerous transactions involving the petty cash account, including checks and E-checks that totaled $13,929 in transactions that were conducted by Justice to pay for personal expenses that were unrelated to the activities of the district, and were not authorized by the district.
The investigation revealed numerous checks that had been written on the operating account for the district. Justice did not have authority to write checks to this account but she did have access to the signature stamps for school officials, who did have signatory authority over this account. Several district employees informed investigators that Justice repeatedly asked them to cash checks for her. School officials told investigators that each of the checks discovered during the investigation were fraudulently created and Justice’s request that other employees cash these checks and give her the money was done to bypass safety measures created to prevent employees from directly cashing checks made out to themselves.
Justice also opened and used a Home Depot credit card in the name of the district, without authority or the approval of any district official. Justice used the fraudulently opened Home Depot credit card to conduct several personal purchases between Jan. 6 and Sept. 1, 2016, totaling $2,133.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Garrison said in a written release that, according to court documents, Justice’s fraudulent scheme not only bled the school district of essential resources, her actions aggravated the financial distress of the district as well.
Justice’s fraud and embezzlement had grown to the point that the school district’s reserve account was all but entirely drained, while teaching positions were eliminated, salaries were capped and cut, programs were eliminated or reduced, and children were denied essential educational resources. The school district cut its weekly school calendar to four days, placed all support staff on part-time status, and eliminated their healthcare benefits.

Plea for leniency
In a letter to the court, filed on Monday, Justice admitted to the crimes and asked for leniency.
“Words cannot express the remorse I feel for the crimes I committed,” She wrote. I take full responsibility for misuse of a wire device and wire fraud. At the time, I was in a very dark place and felt backed into a corner. I have struggled financially my entire life, and being the oldest of 10 children has always made me feel as though it was my responsibility to help out each member of my family.
“The time, the manner in which I chose to remedy my situation was shameful, and I realize others have suffered because of my actions. The feeling of helplessness, combined with extreme stress, impaired my judgement between right and wrong. Reflecting on my emotions and behavior, I now realize I was rationalizing my actions since others were benefiting. I disregarded the consequences, including the amount of strain my actions would put on the school district and students.”