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(WBIR) A former Alcoa City Schools employee will spend 40 months behind bars after admitting to stealing money from the Department of Education.

Kathy Winters, 58, of Harriman, pleaded guilty in May to stealing government funds.

In addition to being the federal projects administrative assistant for the Alcoa City School District, Winters was the treasurer for the Tennessee Attendance Supervisors Steering Committee (TASSC) and the East Tennessee Attendance Supervisors Association (ETASA).

In 2012, an audit revealed $82,636.79 was missing from the TASSC bank account during the time Winters had access to the funds. The investigation expanded to the other two agencies where she handled money. Investigators determined that ETASA suffered financial losses of $1,236.36 and $344,203.79 was missing from Alcoa City Schools, which included federal grant money paid to the school district for special education expenses.

In addition to prison time, Winters was ordered to pay a total of $428,076.94 in restitution.

The investigation showed that Winters took the money by creating false invoices which demanded payment to TASSC or ETASA, forging an approving official's signature to the invoices, and forwarding them to Alcoa City for payment. Winters endorsed the checks issued by Alcoa City as payment for the false invoices. She then either deposited the funds into her personal account or into either the TASSC or ETASA account and then withdrew the money by a check payable to her or through an ATM withdrawal.

Winters also made unauthorized personal charges on Alcoa City School District credit cards and falsified travel reimbursement requests for unauthorized travel. In both instances, she forged signatures of approving officials and submitted the credit card billing statements and travel claims to the Alcoa City for payment.

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A former Alcoa City Schools employee admitted Wednesday that she stole more than $344,000 from the district in federal court.

Kathy Ann Winters pleaded guilty to theft of government funds. Her plea comes after a 6-year state comptroller investigation. Winters also admitted to stealing more than $83,000 from two other organizations.

She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Alcoa City Schools also filed a more than $1 million lawsuit against Winters in March

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