Stealing from Students: An Investigation into Embezzlement in the K-12 setting

No empirical research has systematically investigated fraud detection in schools. We examine this threat that administrators face in the oversight of school finance—occupational fraud. Informed by the Fraud Triangle theory, we employ a collective case study research design to unpack the characteristics of frauds and fraudsters in the K-12 educational setting. We comprise a dataset of 738 frauds of more than $200 million. Analysis shows education fraudsters are likely female, have greater work experience, and perpetrate frauds for longer. Additionally, school administrators present a threat to schools, wherein their leadership roles result in the largest frauds. This study has direct implications for administrators, to assist them in assessing fraud risk in education by providing empirical evidence to prevent, detect, and deter fraud in K-12 contexts.