Police: Ex-Burwell School director embezzled $174K, spent money on plane tickets, shopping

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Hillsborough woman is charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Civil War-era school, according to court documents.

Ronda Tucker, 42, faces an embezzlement charge after she Hillsborough police said she stole $174,000 from the Burwell Historic School.  

Tucker served as director of the school from January until June when she was fired.

According to court documents, Tucker spent the funds she stole on airplane tickets, taxi cabs, veterinary services, and trips to nails salons, pet stores, restaurants, Walmart, Target, and Amazon.com.

“There is a great sense of shock at a revelation like this,” said Brooks Graebner, chair of the Hillsborough Historic Commission.

Graebner said he and other members of the Hillsborough Historic Commission feel betrayed after finding out the former director is charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the commission’s funds.

“Discovering that someone who you very much trusted and relied on has been doing this behind the scenes, when it came to light it was great shock and great sadness,” Graebner said.

Graebner said Tucker started volunteering at the Burwell School site in 2016 and that is when they think she started embezzling the money.

“As the sense of trust built, she was given more and more responsibility,” Graebner said.

In June, the commission discovered discrepancies in the site’s financial records.

Graebner said a background check was never done because Tucker worked her way up to the position.

If it had been done, they would have found she had a previous theft charge in Orange County, Florida.

“That’s something we regret in retrospect,” Graebner said. “Going forward, we certainly will not be hiring someone for a position of financial responsibility and trust without doing that.”

CBS 17 went to Tucker’s home to get a comment, but she didn’t come to the door.

Graebner said they don’t know if the commission will ever get the stolen funds back. He added that the commission is putting their own money and volunteer hours into keeping the site going.

“Many people in this community feel this loss very much because this place has been much loved and widely supported,” Graebner said.

Tucker also faces a worthless check charge not connected to this case.

Her court date has been set for next week in Orange County.

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