CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The former chief financial officer of the Berkeley County School District pleaded guilty to federal embezzlement charges Tuesday morning.
Brantley Thomas was indicted by a grand jury in December on 20 federal counts including fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering. The indictment states Thomas embezzled $800,000 of public school money for his own use. He faces up to 300 years in prison.
"We're gonna want to get money back from anybody who wronged the district and stole from children and helped him steal from children," school district attorney Josh Whitley said after the court hearing.
Prosecutors say Thomas may have stolen more than $800,000 from the school district.
They say he used an $89,500 grant for special education students to buy a lot for a new home in Hanahan.
Prosecutors say Thomas overpaid vendors through the school district and used $450,000 in refunded money for membership at a private club and travel overseas.
"A significant amount was taken from exceptional children, children that need it most, and that's what angers me," said Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram. "We're gonna be hiring an internal auditor, a staff auditor and we're putting processes into place that will make sure no one person is keeper of all the coins."
Thomas also is facing state charges.
If convicted of those, he faces up to 135 years in prison.
"He'll be facing federal penitentiary time," former South Carolina attorney general Charlie Condon said."Then you go through the same federal guideline scheme. I would think with this amount of money and abuse of trust, the guidelines would cause for a prison sentence."