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Published: Thursday, 2/28/2008

Charter school volunteer is sent to prison

DiCianni DiCianni
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William DiCianni served time in prison twice before in different states for money-related convictions before he was given access to money at the now-closed Performing Arts School of Metropolitan Toledo.

Yesterday he was sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to a prison encore.

DiCianni, 49, was sentenced to five years and four months for four convictions. Originally charged with 28 counts of criminal activity involving money, he pleaded no contest and was found guilty Feb. 12 on one count each of passing bad checks, forgery, grand theft, and money laundering. He also must pay back the $90,857.50 stolen from the charter school. "I know I did wrong and I know I deserve to be punished," DiCianni told Judge Linda Jennings before sentencing.

Authorities said DiCianni was never employed by the school, but was an unpaid volunteer. He worked there after his wife, Kari, became director of the school in May, 2004, a position she maintained until she was fired in January, 2006, county Assistant Prosecutor Bruce Sorg said.

According to court records, Mrs. DiCianni authorized her husband to sign her name on school checks. He also was authorized to withdraw money from the school's checking account.

DiCianni's illegal activity was uncovered after the group that sponsored the school asked for an audit because of financial difficulties. A special audit was conducted for the period between July, 2006, and February, 2007, Mr. Sorg said.

In October, 2007, the audit released by the Ohio auditor said DiCianni owed the state several thousand dollars.

The audit further showed DiCianni distributed paychecks to students for work at the school, but the checks were larger than the amount justified by time sheets. Specifically, DiCianni was convicted of money laundering because he wrote checks to students for more than they were owed, then asked them to cash the checks and bring him the extra money. He also was convicted of fraudulently telling the school's sponsor that he paid the rent and was owed $8,500, an amount he was reimbursed in November, 2006, leading to the conviction on grand theft.

DiCianni also was convicted of forgery for signing the name of school's financial manager on checks.

"You were in a position where you could have helped a lot of people, but instead you betrayed that trust and hurt a lot of people," Judge Jennings said.

DiCianni has theft-related convictions in Illinois and Kentucky. He recently completed a 30-day sentence at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker after he pleaded no contest to and was found guilty in Maumee Municipal Court of two charges of passing bad checks under $500 for incidents in June, 2005. A charge of passing bad checks is pending in Parma, Ohio, where he, his wife, and child moved after leaving Toledo.

Defense attorney Jane Roman said before sentencing her client acknowledged his wrongdoing and she believed he did accept responsibility.

"I think he has come to the realization sitting in jail pending this case and has acknowledged his wrongdoing and now wants to move forward," she said after the hearing.

- Erica Blake



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