- Photo: Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

Photo: Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

A former director of the Knox County (Tenn.) Schools Career Technical Education (CTE) program has been indicted for theft following an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, Overton County News reported.  Investigators allege that Charles Lawson used his school purchasing card to buy parts for a personal vehicle and that he removed several vehicles and trailers from school property.

The CTE program includes 16 career clusters, including a transportation cluster that taught automotive maintenance and light vehicle repair, diesel repair, and collision repair.

According to the comptroller’s investigative report, Lawson purchased vehicle parts totaling $9,752 for vehicles that were not in the fleet, and at least $6,593 of these parts were for personal use. Investigators were unable to determine who benefitted from the remaining parts.

 - Photo: Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

Photo: Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

Investigators found that used a purchasing card to buy an engine and transmission for a 2007 Nissan Murano, totaling $4,675, which was owned by a family member. CTE students installed the engine and transmission into the Murano. He also allegedly used his purchase card to buy a radio and headlights for the Murano. After these purchases, the vehicle was titled in Lawson’s name.

Investigators additionally found that he removed school assets from school property totaling at least $26,009. This included 11 trailers, two ATVs, one Camaro, and one engine. In May 2019, Lawson told the Sheriff’s Department detectives where the missing assets were, and some were recovered.

Knox County Schools placed Lawson on paid administrative leave on July 21, 2017, placed him on unpaid administrative leave on Aug. 23, 2017, and removed him from his position on Nov. 17, 2017. He was indicted on March 10, 2020.

The comptroller’s report further stated that the school board needs to correct deficiencies in internal controls and compliances so that similar crimes cannot be perpetuated without prompt detection.

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