Forgery and Counterfeiting
A well-liked and highly respected high school science teacher with 31 years of service was accused of forgery and counterfeiting. A parent of one of his students made this allegation following her daughter’s participation in a school field trip. The teacher organized the trip, as he had hundreds of others in the past. His normal practice was to organize trips during the summer recess. This included coordinating transportation, tours, meals and other aspects of a trip. Once the initial arrangements were made, the teacher would then ascertain how many students were interested in attending trip after the school year began.
This allowed him to determine the individual cost of the trip by dividing the total trip cost by the number of interested students. Since many of the trip arrangements are made during recess, the teacher financed the initial costs such as deposits and other necessary upfront expenses on his own. Once the trip was finalized and students paid their respective shares, he reimburses himself with these proceeds and used the remainder of the funds to finance the remaining balance for the overall trip cost. The teacher received no compensation or financial gain or benefit during this process. After planning one particular trip, the cost per student was calculated to be $70.00.
Many of the students paid in cash, while others paid with checks issued by their parents. Of the checks received, some were made out to the teacher directly and others were made out to the school. The teacher endorsed all of the checks received, to include those made out to the school, and deposited them into his personal account.
A student’s mother discovered that the check she issued to the school to finance her daughter’s participation in the trip had been endorsed by the teacher and deposited into his account. She reported her discovery to school officials, pressured them to notify police and expressed a strong desire to press criminal charges. The School Department ultimately suspended the teacher without pay and banned him from school grounds pending the outcome of a criminal investigation.
The teacher retained Attorney John L. Calcagni III to represent him in connection with this investigation, and ultimately the criminal charges that were filed against him. Attorney Calcagni and his client voluntarily met with police during the investigation. The teacher waived his right to remain silent and fully cooperated with police by producing his bank records, explaining the field trip process, and disclosing his practice of planning these events throughout the years.
Despite his candid efforts, police arrested and charged the teacher with Forgery and Counterfeiting. Once criminally charged, Attorney Calcagni worked for months with prosecutors to persuade them that his client never formed an intent to defraud, a legal element required for the crime of forgery.
Absent proof of this element, there existed no probable cause or legal basis to support the charges. Attorney Calcagni argued that the student and her mother received exactly what they bargained and paid for – the student’s participation on the field trip.
The teacher received no financial gain or benefit from endorsing the parent’s check, which was inadvertently made out to the school. The teacher was also fully open about his actions with school officials, police and parents over the course of several months. No other parent sought to penalize or punish the teacher for his conduct. Attorney Calcagni also brought to light the complainant’s potential bias against his client and motive to smear the teacher’s reputation. He educated prosecutors of how the disgruntled parent was a political ally to the political opponent of the teacher’s brother who serves as Town Council President.
Attorney Calcagni also emphasized his client’s unblemished reputation within the community and well-known track record of going above and beyond the call of duty as a high school teacher. This particular teacher served as class advisor, student council advisor, Teachers’ Union Officer, Science Department Chairman and Students Against Drunk Driving Advisor.
He also organized events such as proms, fundraisers, homecoming events, honors nights, class trips, banquets, parade float contests (local and national), spirit week, miscellaneous contests, teacher’s appreciation week, holiday events, dances, fundraisers for charities, battle of the classes competitions, alumni breakfast events, and blood drives. By all accounts, the teacher was a legend and invaluable contributor to the school and community. Based on these collective factors, Attorney Calcagni successfully persuaded prosecutors to dismiss all charges against the teacher in order to preserve and restore his good name and reputation.