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PTA Embezzlers Get 90 Days
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Two officials of the Parent Teacher Association at Riverbank's Rio Altura Elementary School who admitted they stole from PTA funds and diverted the money to their own use were sentenced recently to 90 days in jail.

Joann Marie Nordell, 48, and Stephanie Ann Fisler-Pulido, 32, were also ordered to repay $2,500 each although another PTA official who reported them to the authorities said at the time the PTA's losses were more then $14,000.

A Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge ordered the defendants to report to the Public Safety Center on Sept. 14 unless they can secure positions in a home detention or a work release program that would allow them to do unpaid work during the day and return home at night.

Paula Jaramillo, the PTA member who turned them in, said she would rather see the two join a work release program "doing something useful for the community and the kids; something that would bring closure for local residents."

Jaramillo said the court hearing was a "bittersweet occasion," noting that she was pleased former Riverbank detective Priscilla Woods - who prosecuted the case but has since retired - was there for the final hearing.

Nordell and Fisler-Pulido pleaded no contest to using funds that the PTA collected from parents and students to support school programs for their own private purposes such as buying groceries and remodeling a bathroom.

Fisler-Pulido was president of the Rio Altura PTA and Nordell treasurer at the time. Jaramillo became suspicious when the organization split into two groups and she was named president of a new PTA supporting the Riverbank Language Academy. Fisler-Pulido and Nordell were reluctant to supply her with bank statements and cancelled check copies, according to Jaramillo, and she eventually decided PTA accounts had been mishandled.

She reported her suspicions to the local police and the incident became public in October of 2007 although the two suspects were not arrested until six months later, then-Police Chief Tim Beck telling a school board it was difficult to determine whether it was a case of poor accounting or there was deliberate embezzlement.

Both women pleaded no contest to one count of embezzlement. They may ask the court to reduce their felony convictions to misdemeanors once they have paid restitution. The PTA carried insurance and was recompensed for its losses long ago.