Ex-Phoenixville Schools CFO gets 14 months in jail for embezzling $94,000

PHILADELPHIA — The former chief financial officer who pleaded guilty to embezzling money from the Phoenixville-area school district has been sentenced in federal court to one year and two months in prison.

In addition, according to information provided by the US Attorney’s office, Christopher Gehris, 47, will have to repay the more than $94,000 he stole. Gehris will also be subject to three years of probation, or “supervised release”, after serving his prison sentence.

Gehris, a resident of Phoenixville, pleaded guilty in early February and was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg.

According to a report in The Philadelphia Investigator, defense attorney Stephen I. Baer asked the judge for probation, but Goldberg refused.

Following the sentencing announcement, the school district released a statement on its website which read, “The Phoenixville Area School District is pleased that the investigation and prosecution of Mr. Gehris has been completed. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the case was thoroughly investigated. Today’s decision allows all parties to start moving forward. Mr. Gehris’ actions have had a negative impact on students, parents, the community and the district.

The statement further noted that “The District thanks the Phoenixville Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney, and the federal courts for their work and thoughtful deliberations. As always, our hearts go out to Mr. Gehris’ family.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Gehris cashed checks made out to her name and to ‘cash’, received checks and direct deposits to her personal checking account for ‘start-up money’ for student activities, has stole money from school programs and obtained gift cards for personal expenses – all as part of his embezzlement scheme from 2013 to 2019.”

the Applicant The article gave the following example: “After $10,849 in checks and cash were collected from seventh graders going on a school trip, Gehris altered the records of the totals collected to bypass the nearly $800 he deposited into his account.

Gehris also admitted to hiding his thefts by altering receipts and falsifying reports submitted to the school board.

Some of the money was stolen from a federally funded program, which is why the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District handled the prosecution. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Phoenixville Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Terri A. Marinari.

“Defendant stole nearly $100,000 from a public school district, a portion of which was specifically allocated for student activities intended to enhance their educational experience,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “The criminals who embezzle public money from schools are ripping off hundreds of students while ripping off all the taxpayers who fund them.”

Gehris’ actions also ended up in a 2021 report from the state auditor general’s office which highlighted some of the irregularities and the district’s inability to catch them until 2019.

The “differences” in the books were Ffirst announced in September 2019, two weeks after Gehris resigned from his district position following an internal audit in which some of the discrepancies first emerged.

At the time the Auditor General’s report was released, it included responses from the district indicating that the control deficiencies had already been corrected. For months, members of the public have regularly asked questions about the progress of the investigation and the council and administration have told them they can’t say anything until the investigation is complete. terminated by law enforcement.

Gehris was first hired in 2006 as District Business Office Comptroller and later promoted to Business Manager. In 2018, he was appointed Chief Financial Officer.