A former Imperial Beach PTA president is wanted for allegedly embezzling as much as $40,000 from funds meant for students, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff’s department issued a warrant for the arrest of Kaitlyn Birchman on Dec. 20 for allegedly stealing money from that Imperial Beach Charter School’s PTA fund.
The money was supposed to fund student field trips and other student activities, but instead, Birchman allegedly spent the money on herself and her family, the current PTA leadership said.
NBC 7 first reported about the alleged embezzling in August.
The current president and current treasurer of the Imperial Beach Charter School PTA estimate Birchman took between $25,000 and $40,000. No one knows exactly how much money is missing.
Amber Vissuet and Elizabeth McKay, the current president and treasurer of the Imperial Beach Charter School’s PTA told NBC 7 in August during an 18-month period the organization’s former president allegedly lied about the group’s finances, emptied out its bank account, collected money from members for bills but failed to pay invoices, and spent the PTA’s money on personal items and on family trips.
The I.B. Charter School PTA’s current treasurer said the real victims are the children, who missed out on field trips and back-to-school events typically funded by the PTA.
“I think that was the saddest part because the suspect had two children who went to school there,” McKay told NBC 7 in August.
A former Coronado police detective, McKay spent months analyzing bank statements and financial records.
“It’s a hard lesson to share with your kids that adults you trust and you think are good people are capable of doing something like this,” she said
McKay became aware of some discord in the PTA at the very first meeting she attended as a member.
At that March meeting, people were asking the PTA president some very pointed questions about the group’s lack of funds, and the president’s answers were — to the 19-year veteran detective — “not making sense.”
“She was saying things like ‘I kept the money in bags in my closet,’” McKay said. “Okay, well, do we need to go over to your house and get the bags of money out of your closet then?”
McKay later went with the current president Amber Visseut to the bank where the PTA kept its account and began looking over bank statements.
She matched cash ATM withdrawals made near Disneyland with times and dates the former president posted to her Facebook page she was at the amusement park with her family.
“I spent over 60 hours and put together a three-ring binder,” McKay said. McKay handed her findings over to the financial crimes unit of the sheriff’s department.
The leaders are stressing the loss of funds was solely the responsibility of one person, something the sheriff’s department said they cannot yet confirm at this stage in the investigation.
McKay wants justice for the children and to see the former PTA president held accountable for her actions, something she thinks may be unlikely to happen.
“It’s frustrating because I get [the authorities are] used to dealing with crimes of embezzlement of $100,000 to millions of dollars, and I understand that it’s not the crime of the century to them, but to us, it is,” she said.