Cafeteria worker accused of stealing up to $1M arrested

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that Fulton County school police have arrested a former cafeteria manager suspected of stealing hundreds of dollars every day for at least five years.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher says that the total amount of money stolen over a longer period could reach $1 million, based on information from arrest warrants.

The alleged thefts took place at North Springs High School in north Fulton County.

Channel 2 Action News broke the story last spring, when a cafeteria worker told us her manager regularly ran a cash-only line for which there were no records.

Now, police charge it was a long-running and extremely profitable theft scheme.

A whistleblower provided video inside the North Springs cafeteria. There were four lines that each had a cash register to keep track of the money.

Standing alone was a blue cart that sold a-la-carte items for cash and never had a register.

Now, Belcher has learned that Fulton County school police obtained 10 arrest warrants for former cafeteria manager Brenda Watts.

The warrants accuse Watts of stealing $500 a day from the cafeteria.
Last spring, Belcher asked Beth Walsh, former cafeteria worker, how long the a la carte line had been running.
"At least 15 years. Up to maybe 20," Walsh said.

The police charge that Watts stole $500 a day. That's $2,500 a week, which is a staggering $90,000 in a school year.

Over 15 years, that would be $1,350,000.

According to the arrest warrants, Watts lives in a five-bedroom, 5,400 square-foot home in south DeKalb County.

No one answered the door when Belcher stopped at the home for comment on this story. Moments later, a late model Mercedes pulled out of the garage and drove away from the home.

Watts retired last June, the day after Channel 2 Action News aired the first story about North Springs. She'd been with the school system for 26 years.

Walsh was fired but said she does not regret blowing the whistle.

"You know, just, if you feel like something's going on, look into it. You could be wrong. But if you're right, you're doing the right thing," Walsh said.

Deputy Fulton County School Superintendent Patrick Burke sent a statement that reads in part, "Beyond taking appropriate personnel actions, when a potential crime occurs, we will investigate and work with law enforcement to prosecute to the full extent of the law."