Worker charged with taking $3.4M from Ohio schools

CLEVELAND (AP) — A former information technology director has been charged in the theft of $3.4 million from a northeast Ohio school district.

A state audit of the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) Heights district found Joseph Palazzo, of Independence, authorized millions of dollars in payments to seven vendors run by relatives and friends, and the schools didn't get anything in return.

Palazzo resigned in February 2011 as officials moved to fire him.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Cleveland says the 31-year-old Palazzo is charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering and mail fraud.

The charge was filed Wednesday as a criminal information, which usually signals a pending plea deal. Palazzo's attorney, James Marniella, declined comment Thursday.

The district is pursuing a civil lawsuit to help recover the missing funds.

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