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RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - A Suncoast Community High School band director turned himself in Thursday evening after he was indicted on charges of fraud and misconduct, according to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.
Ernest Brown, 51, is accused of using school funds for himself, his family and his friends to travel to London and Paris -- trips that were intended to benefit high school students.
According to a report released by State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, a grand jury investigation found that Brown hid his fraudulent activity by pulling funds from other school accounts, and used his position as a public servant to "deprive" non-band students use of their own funds."
The grand jury report stated Brown allegedly created false documents stating particular students had met their financial obligations relating to these trips when they had not.
The grand jury report also criticized the Palm Beach County School District, stating the district lacks appropriate oversight over its financial accounts, and "this lack of accountability ... undermines the fundraising objectives of enriching the educational and extracurricular experience of the students."
The investigation concluded that the district should "re-assess and improve" its oversight over school activity funding.
School officials said the district has fully cooperated with the state attorney's office and is reviewing discipline issues at this time.
"The first thing that come to my mind is [that] he's taking advantage of his job," said Bobby Williams, a Riviera Beach resident. "You're trusting those people to take care of your kids. I don't think it's right."
Brown was released Friday morning on $6,000 bond.
Frank Barbieri, chair of the Palm Beach County School Board, said "I cannot comment on this particular case since it may involve a disciplinary action by the board at some point in the future. I will say, however, that all of the district's employees are expected to act with the highest degree of ethics."
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