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By Rampart Stonebridge, updated on March 25, 2024

High School Secretary Arrested For Stealing From Fundraiser For Cancer-Stricken Principal

In a heart-wrenching turn of events, a secretary at Brush High School has betrayed the very essence of human compassion by allegedly stealing funds meant for a beloved principal's cancer treatment.

According to Daily Mail, Stacie LaRiccia has been charged with theft by deception for allegedly taking over $30,000 from a fundraiser intended to support cancer-stricken Principal Michael Fording, showcasing a grievous breach of trust within a tight-knit school community.

Last June, the community at Brush High School in Cleveland was rocked by the news that their newly appointed principal, Michael Fording, was battling stage-four colon cancer.

Fording, who had been a part of the school's faculty for over 24 years, was diagnosed with a rare treatment-resistant mutation that had spread to his liver. Despite his dire prognosis, Fording continued to serve the school, considering his staff and students his "extended family."

An Outpouring of Support Met With Deception

The school organized a 5km fundraiser run on October 21 to rally support for their beloved principal. The event aimed to cover Fording's medical expenses and contribute to cancer research at University Hospital. However, unbeknownst to the participants, their efforts would not reach those in need.

After Fording's tragic passing on November 26, the funds, which were expected to provide some solace and support to his grieving family and the cancer research community, were nowhere to be found. Only in late January did the missing donations come to light, prompted by inquiries from the University Hospital regarding the expected funds.

The Discovery of a Betrayal

The subsequent investigation led to the arrest of Stacie LaRiccia, 40, Fording's very own secretary, on March 15 at her home. Charged with theft by deception, LaRiccia was accused of misappropriating the funds for personal indulgences, such as food and entertainment, starkly contrasting the fundraiser's altruistic intentions.

Shock and disbelief rippled through the school district as news of the betrayal emerged. Detective Lieutenant Mike Scipione expressed the community's collective heartbreak, emphasizing the urgent need to redirect the stolen funds back to their rightful destination—honoring Fording's memory and supporting cancer research.

LaRiccia was released on $25,000 bail and awaited further court proceedings, her actions casting a long shadow over the community's mourning process.

Standing Strong in the Face of Adversity

In response to the scandal, the South Euclid Lyndhurst School District promptly placed LaRiccia on leave and pledged full cooperation with the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Linda Reid and Fording's widow, Melissa, voiced their grief and admiration for Fording's enduring spirit. His courageous battle against cancer and his unwavering dedication to his school community left an indelible mark, inspiring those he left behind.

Despite the profound loss and ensuing betrayal, Fording's legacy continues to unite the Brush High School community. His four daughters and the anticipation of his first grandchild in June are a testament to the family and extended family he cherished so deeply. Appointed principal in August 2022, Fording's brief tenure was marked by bravery, compassion, and unwavering love for his students and staff.

Lessons to Learn from This Tragedy

As we reflect on this heart-wrenching story, several key lessons emerge.

1. Transparency and Accountability: Fundraising efforts, especially those rooted in compassion for community members, must be managed with the utmost transparency and accountability to safeguard the trust and contributions of all participants.

2. Vigilance in Community Support: While community efforts to support one another are commendable, it is crucial to remain vigilant and ensure that mechanisms are in place to prevent the misappropriation of funds.

3. Never Blame the Victim: It's important to remember that the victims of such crimes are never at fault. Crime can strike unexpectedly, and while precautions are beneficial, they are not always foolproof.

It's imperative to understand that despite our best efforts, crime can happen to anyone, and blaming the victim is never the right approach.

Why This Story Matters

This story is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities inherent in acts of generosity and the impact of betrayal on a grieving community. It underscores the importance of integrity and vigilance in safeguarding community efforts and the devastating consequences of broken trust.

The memory of Michael Fording and the stolen funds destined for cancer research incarnate the urgent need for justice and healing within the Brush High School community.

In conclusion, the tragic tale of Stacie LaRiccia's alleged betrayal reveals a harrowing breach of trust within a community united by empathy and support. The loss of Michael Fording and the subsequent theft of over $30,000 in donations highlight the profound impact of crime on individuals and communities alike.

It's a solemn reminder of the need for diligence and integrity in all our endeavors, ensuring that acts of kindness reach those in need and honor the memory of those we've lost.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.

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