Former Charlevoix school principal pleads guilty to two embezzlement counts

Keisha Veryser pleads guilty to two felony embezzlement charges

A former principal at St. Mary's Elementary School in Charlevoix agreed to a plea bargain Friday, admitting she embezzled funds from the Catholic school in a three-and-a-half year span.

"I am agreeing to a plea, guilty to two counts of embezzlement, in agreement, the other five counts will be dismissed," says Keisha Veryser.

That is the deal 36 year-old Keisha Veryser agreed to in Charlevoix Circuit Court Friday. As principal of St. Mary's Elementary School between August of 2006 and March of 2010, detectives say she stole more than $100,000.

"Thatâ??s what we could find, that would lead others to obviously believe it was more than $100,000 in the 3 1/2 years she was there," says D/Sgt Jerry Briolat of the Michigan State Police.

Detectives believe the embezzling began back in 2006, September 15th to be exact, when Veryser brought three checks to citizen's bank in Charlevoix worth $300. She deposited $200 into the school's miscellaneous fund, but skimmed off $100 cash and put it in her pocket.

According to the affidavit, Veryser used the miscellaneous fund, money set aside for student activities, like field trips, to pay for nail appointments and even to pay off her school loan. Investigators say she dipped into the school fund on more than 60 different occasions.

â??I used school funds for personal use, the amount was over $1,000, and I knew it was wrong," Veryser told the Judge.

Veryser would also use the money in the miscellaneous fund as her own personal checkbook, like back on April 27th, 2009, when detectives say she went to Kohlâ??s and paid $491 for her children's clothing. More money gone.

â??There was $100,000 in my mind that was deprived from the kids at St. Maryâ??s Elementary School," says Briolat.

And according to detectives, it all wrapped up where it started. On March 16th, 2010, almost four years after Veryser skimmed $100 off the top, she came back to citizens, withdrew $3,500, put it into a cashier's check, and paid off her own Visa.

In April of 2010, the Diocese of Gaylord noticed something wrong with the schoolâ??s financial records and called in police to investigate.

â??I know it was wrong, I know it was wrong, and Iâ??m sorry," says Veryser.

Veryser will be sentenced on a later date but could get as much as 5 years in prison.

As part of the deal, Veryser will pay back $75,000 to the school.

In a statement to 7&4 News, the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord had this to say about Fridayâ??s plea.

â??Mrs. Veryser's guilty plea and admission to embezzlement charges today is another step toward healing in what has been a very arduous and heart-wrenching two years and we look forward to the day when we can close the door on this sad chapter in history.â??