A Florida school principal was taken into custody on Thursday and accused of stealing nearly $1,000 from a mentally handicapped 9-year-old student, authorities said.
Edward John Abernathy, 50, the principal at Connerton Elementary School in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, was charged with grand theft stemming from an incident that began on Oct. 22, according to a complaint affidavit from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
The unidentified student had brought $2,100 of his parents’ money to school weeks earlier, authorities said.
After teachers at the school realized the child brought in the large sum, they “turned the money over to school administration,” the document said.
“The assistant principal counted the money, and placed it in the Principals (Defendant) desk, in the company of witnesses,” the affidavit said, adding that the principal learned of the situation when he came back to school the following day. “The principal told other staff members that he would take care of the situation.”
A few days later, the child’s parents found out about the money, following which his mother went to the school to retrieve it and “the principal handed a ‘wad of money’ to the child’s mother,” the affidavit said.
After realizing that she “was only given $1,200,” the mother reached out to her husband and the teacher “thinking maybe there was a discrepancy when the money was initially counted and turned over to school administration,” according to the document.
“The mother and father later learned the school had indeed verified the amount of money brought to school was $2,100,” the affidavit said. And upon determining that $900 was unaccounted for, they called law enforcement.
Through interviews with the family and school officials, the sheriff’s office discovered that Abernathy allegedly counted and verified the $2,100 before ultimately placing it in “a hidden location in his office,” the affidavit said. The spot was determined to be on the “inside of a speaker on top of a shelf,” according to the document, which was where it stayed until being returned to the mother.
After interviewing the principal, during which he made “multiple inconsistent statements,” the sheriff’s department identified “probable cause to arrest” him, the affidavit said.
Pasco County Schools spokesman Trevor Roppolo told the New York Post that they “were shocked to hear about” Abernathy’s arrest.
“We’re disappointed and shocked,” Roppolo said. “It’s quite the way to end the week.”
Abernathy "has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office," Roppolo told Fox News.
Abernathy made bond late Thursday evening, the sheriff’s office told Fox News.
Abernathy did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.