No federal prison for Lincoln Charter School embezzler

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Lincoln Charter School, 559 W. King St., York City  Amanda J. Cain photo

A former Lincoln Charter School official who embezzled more than $78,000 from the school has avoided federal prison.

Eliseo Sierra, 43, now of Lincoln Avenue Southeast in Stuart, Florida, was sentenced Friday to five years' probation in Harrisburg's U.S. Middle District Court, according to court records.

He had faced a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in federal prison, according to his plea agreement.

He has repaid $16,000 in restitution for what he stole, and on Friday presiding U.S. Middle District Judge Jennifer P. Wilson ordered him to pay an additional $61,337 in restitution, court records state.

The judge noted Sierra's medical conditions as well as the COVID-19 pandemic as the reasons for not sending him to prison, and also pointed to the fact that the embezzlement happened in 2014, according to Dawn Clark, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg.

Reached Monday by phone, Sierra declined comment.

He pleaded guilty July 9 to the felony of federal program theft, court records state.

The background: It happened in May 2014 while Sierra was the school's operations manager, according to Clark.

Much of the stolen money came from U.S. Department of Education grants to Lincoln Charter School, Clark has said.

In May 2020, after Sierra was federally charged, the principal and CEO of Lincoln Charter School issued a statement noting that Sierra hadn't been employed by the school since 2014.

Lincoln Charter School Principal Leonard Hart Sr.

"Since the time of Mr. Sierra's departure, Lincoln Charter School transformed its administration and board governance, including policies and procedures, to ensure both fidelity to its mission and its responsibilities as a steward of public funds, both state and federal," Principal Leonard Hart Sr. wrote.

The school cooperated fully with federal officials investigating Sierra, according to Hart, who thanked the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg and other federal officials "for ensuring that justice prevailed."

The FBI investigated the case, Clark said.

Court records indicate Sierra caused a vehicle accident earlier this year in Florida that left him with burns and other injuries.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.