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Lynchburg police investigating 'accounting irregularities' at James River Day School

Lynchburg police investigating 'accounting irregularities' at James River Day School

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Lynchburg police are investigating suspicious accounting irregularities at a small private school after officials discovered a significant amount of money was missing from the school’s operating fund.

Police now are reviewing financial documents at James River Day School, an independent institution tucked away in the northern end of the Hill City, as part of an embezzlement investigation launched last year.

Investigators also are scrutinizing the personal financial records of a former employee who had access to the school’s finances, according to court documents. No arests have been made and no one has been formally accused of any wrongdoing in the case.

It is unclear how much money was found to be missing from the private school. A spokesperson for the Lynchburg Police Department confirmed the investigation is ongoing but declined to offer further details about the probe.

School officials contacted police Nov. 20 after learning “there was a significant shortcoming in funds and multiple accounts had been shuffled around,” according to a search warrant filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court.

In a letter to parents in late November, school officials described the suspicious activity as “accounting irregularities.”

“The school is cooperating fully with the appropriate authorities,” Turner Perrow, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, wrote in the letter. “Please be assured that the Board and leadership of our school are committed to the institution’s financial integrity and a superior education experience. We believe that this matter will have little to no impact on the school’s operations or mission and anticipate its swift resolution.”

Perrow and Peter York, the head of school, both declined to discuss the investigation Tuesday.

Court records show officials have seized 10 years of financial records from a Lynchburg bank as part of the investigation.

Police officials also have identified at least one person of interest in the investigation. The individual, whom The News & Advance is not naming because no charges have been filed, is a longtime administrator who was employed at the school as recently as last year.

James River Day School, which sits on Boonsboro Road, serves nearly 250 students across nine grades and employs nearly 50 people. According to the school’s website, annual tuition for a student in kindergarten runs nearly $12,000.

The school appears to be financially stable. Publicly available tax documents show the school took in more than $3 million in tuition and related fees and more than $600,000 in gifts in 2018. Expenses totaled nearly $3.5 million.

The investigation into the suspicious activity began a little more than a week after Holy Cross Regional Catholic School, another small Lynchburg private school, announced it would close its doors because of financial issues. At the time of the announcement, church officials pointed to declining enrollment and yearly deficits as high as $360,000 as the reason behind the closure.

Reach Chumney at (434) 385-5547.

Richard Chumney covers Liberty University for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

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