A gambling addiction may have driven a former Green Valley High School banker to embezzle nearly $150,000 in student-generated funds from the Henderson campus.
Melissa Traylor, who received little training in financial management before her promotion to school banker in 2012, bet more than $3.7 million at area convenience stores and casinos over a span of just three years, according to court records. Circle K managers told investigators Traylor would visit their stores three to four days a week, sometimes gambling longer than their entire work shifts.
At the same time, court records show, Traylor began using forged checks, delayed and fraudulent bank deposits, and hidden cash and coins to pilfer thousands of dollars at a time from Green Valley High School.
In total, Clark County School District police investigators discovered more than $143,000 missing from the accounts Traylor managed from July 2013 to February 2015.
On Monday in Clark County District Court, Traylor entered a guilty plea in connection with the theft and agreed to pay the total amount in restitution to the district. She faces up to four years in prison when a district judge sentences her in November.
"There's always the potential for there to be more (stolen) when you're working with cash," said Sgt. Mitch Maciszak, who oversees the school police department's investigations bureau. "There is a lot of cash that goes through that school."
Before taking the job as banker of Green Valley High School, Traylor participated in only four days of training on how the program worked, according to an affidavit from school police.
It's unclear how Traylor will make the restitution, especially considering the state cannot garnishee her benefits from the Nevada Public Employees' Retirement System. A new law prohibits state employees from collecting those benefits if they're convicted of certain crimes, including embezzlement of public funds, but the law only applies to workers hired after July 1.
In February, district auditors began combing Green Valley High School financial records following the departure of its principal, a standard trigger for internal audits at the district.
The audit, however, seemed to panic Traylor, who unexpectedly told investigators that $70,000 was taken from her car when she left it unlocked in a Walmart parking lot.
Traylor explained that she began paying back some of the money, though Maciszak said he couldn't find any proof of that.
"We were probably within a day of discovering (the missing funds) ourselves," he added. "I think she knew it as well. The auditors were asking her questions about what was going on."
Subsequent interviews with several Green Valley High School administrators, staff and teachers revealed a nearly two-year history of Traylor's connection to missing money and questionable checks and receipts.
Still, none of those employees reported the banker's curious behavior to central administration.
"That's a message we've been preaching from the school police for years now," Maciszak said. "You need to report suspicious behavior by employees (and) interactions between students and staff.
"This may have been caught earlier if people brought something forward."