By Devin Rose
A former Buildings and Grounds Department supervisor for Oak Park School District 97 was sentenced last month to six years in prison for stealing more than $750,000 from the district over three years, beginning nearly a decade ago.
Judge Diane Cannon sentenced Jerry Malatesta, 64, on Jan. 12, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's press office. He was admitted the next day to the Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon.
Malatesta was charged with felony theft in 2008 for allegedly billing the district for work that was never done.
Between 2004 and 2007, he allegedly coerced two contractors to help him bill for the work, cash checks and give part of the money back to him.
In April 2007, Malatesta was placed on leave after an audit revealed irregular spending patterns in building maintenance. He was fired later that year, based on evidence gathered by investigators.
D97 filed a civil lawsuit the next year against Malatesta and the two contractors, George Coventry and Terry Karitsiotis, saying the three men "engaged in ongoing conspiracies to commit fraud against the district and its taxpayers." The suit identified dozens of invoices submitted by the contractors to the district, with amounts that varied from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
D97 Superintendent Al Roberts said in a statement that district staff are "very satisfied" with Malatesta's conviction.
"While Mr. Malatesta's actions were deplorable, we are very pleased that the internal controls implemented by the district brought this theft to light and that those controls ensure that our financial resources are used to provide our students with a quality education."
Malatesta was hired in 1988 and spent his entire career in the district with the Buildings and Grounds Department. His salary before he was fired was $120,840.