Former Amador County Superintendent Faces 10 Felony Charges of Fraud

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The former head of the Amador County Unified School District turned herself into authorities Wednesday on a warrant for 10 felony charges involving fraud, perjury and forgery.

County officials say former superintendent Elizabeth Chapin-Pinotti entered into more than $256,000 worth of contracts for books and school curricula with at least seven different publishing companies to which she had personal ties.

Some companies were made up, and their listed owners were not even real people, according to a 45-page arrest warrant.

Chapin-Pinotti also forged school donor letters, employee signatures and wrote fraudulent checks all to cover up the illegal scheme, according to the county's criminal complaint against her.

Robin Alarcon, who has a fourth grade daughter in the ACUSD, said she's not surprised. She says this isn't the first time she's seen corruption in the county, and that it's unfortunate that this time it involves the schools.

"I've noticed in this county it's pretty much who you know, not what you know," said Alarcon.

Michelle White used to work for the district and says, while there, she witnessed numerous incidents of corruption, and instances where the district seemed to be prone to troubling practices.

"When you have someone at the top of the ladder it kind of trickles down from there," White said, adding that the district seems to have issues picking good leaders.

The man now in charge of the district is interim superintendent Frank Porter. When Porter served as superintendent of the Twin Rivers Unified School District in 2012, a judge ordered him to pay $15,000 to a former employee for conspiring against her before eventually firing her. The sum was part of a larger wrongful termination settlement in which the district as a whole paid $300,000.

Current head of the school board, Wally Upper, was the subject of a grand jury report released in June. It found he repeatedly intimidated staff members by yelling and using demeaning, inappropriate language.

Alarcon says she didnt get any notice about Chapin-Pinotti's arrest or the grand jury report.

"As a parent you want to know. Your kid's there every day, you know?" Alarcon said.

No one from the district would comment on camera today, but officials sent a statement saying, in part:

"Ms. Chapin-Pinotti is no longer an employee of the Amador County Unified School District, having resigned effective June 30, 2016. During the course of the investigation, the district has fully cooperated with law enforcement."

Chapin-Pinotti, Upper, and Porter all chose either not to comment or could not be reached after multiple attempts of contact.

Chapin-Pinotti's bail was set at $75,000, which she posted Wednesday.

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