School assistant accused of stealing over $30K in cancer fundraising money for dying principal

A woman is facing charges after allegedly stealing money from a school fundraiser organized in honor of a principal fighting cancer.

Stacie LaRiccia, 40, was in charge of organizing a fundraiser in October to benefit Brush High School Principal Michael Fording, who had been fighting colon cancer. LaRiccia was Fording’s administrative assistant, according to WKYC.

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The fundraiser, which took place a month before Fording died, raised over $30,000. The proceeds were meant to be donated to colon cancer research at University Hospitals, as well as to Fording’s family.

In January, an investigation was opened into LaRiccia after the Fording family reported to police that a donation was never made to University Hospitals. The investigation showed that instead of donating it, she allegedly stole it and spent it all mainly on food and entertainment, WEWS in Cleveland reported.

LaRiccia was arrested earlier this month and charged with theft by deception and additional prohibited activities. She’s since posted a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court next week.

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South Euclid Lyndhurst Schools released the following statement to several news outlets in the Cleveland area about the case:

“The South Euclid Lyndhurst Schools acknowledges and expresses sadness as we were informed of a criminal investigation involving a non-district sponsored event, ‘Fight for Fording 5K.’ At this point in time, there is no indication that district funds were involved in the ‘Fight for Fording 5K’ and encourage the public to allow the investigation to run its course. The district is cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation and no further comment will be made because of the pending criminal investigation.

The enduring legacy of Mike Fording’s kindness, professionalism, and love for the SEL Schools will ultimately prevail despite what has occurred here, and will allow those who truly loved him, to remain joined with his family, in the journey of remembrance and honoring this wonderful man.”