Former C-P supt. indicted on forgery charges; band booster president arrested, accused of embezzlement

By FAITH HUFFMAN, Crime & Education Reporter

Feb. 17, 2008 - The former superintendent of Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District has been indicted by a Hopkins County Grand Jury on almost three dozen forgery charges, while another person has been arrested in connection with misuse of school booster club funds.

The district attorney's office this week released details of 35 forgery charges and two indictments for false statement to obtain property or credit against Bryan Christopher Neal, former superintendent of Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District. Neal resigned as superintendent in January of 2007 after allegations surfaced that he had misused district funds.

Meanwhile, Como-Pickton Band Booster Club President Jed Anthony Shadix was arrested Friday evening by sheriff's investigators after confessing to theft of more than $10,000 in club money over an eight-month period. 

While the Neal case has been ongoing for more than a year, the allegations against Shadix were only brought forward Friday.

Sheriff's Investigators Lewis Tatum and Jace Anglin said the investigation was launched after they were presented documentation to support the claims. Shadix was contacted around 4 p.m. Friday and agreed to an interview after he got off work. Shadix arrived at the sheriff's office shortly after 5 p.m., spoke with investigators briefly, and admitted to taking C-P Band Booster Club funds from February through October 2007. He was arrested at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Shadix is alleged to have taken the $10,000 that was already in the booster club general fund when he became president of the group in February of last year. He also is accused of keeping band booster club proceeds from concession sales instead of depositing them in an account to benefit the school program, according to Tatum.

Neal was indicted this month by a Hopkins County grand jury. He is accused on 35 occasions to have forged Lydia Walden's name on documents, without her authorization, while serving as superintendent of Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District. The charges are all alleged to have occurred in 2005 and 2006. Walden is currently the assistant superintendent at Como-Pickton.

Local law enforcement officers first began investigating Neal after two Como-Pickton school board members contacted sheriff's officers after noticing a tractor registered in the school's name at Neal's house, according to District Attorney Martin Braddy.

"We began digging and found the rest," Braddy said. "If not ultimately for the fact that he was greedy, we might not have found these others. He took full advantage of his position for his own benefit. The school board did the right thing."

The grand jury indicted Neal this month on two charges of "false statement to obtain property or credit." One indictment alleges that on Aug. 2, 2005, Neal made "a materially false or misleading written statement to Danny Cooksey, namely, that the Kubota [all-terrain vehicle] serial number 40551 was leased by and for the benefit of the Como-Pickton Independent School District, with the intent to obtain said property, for himself." The second charge alleges the same, except instead of an ATV lists a Kubota tractor, Kubota loader and Land Pride Finish Mower as the leased property.

Neal had been placed on suspension with pay following an emergency meeting Saturday, Jan. 13, after the allegations surfaced. The then-36-year-old superintendent was arrested on Jan. 17 on charges of forging another administrator's name to a check written to Neal in the amount of $1,769.90. He was also accused of giving false statements at a business to purchase a $19,134.60 Kubota tractor, as well as an $11,806.56 all-terrain vehicle tractor on behalf of the school district, but keeping the equipment for his own use.

Neal resigned his post as superintendent on Jan. 31, 2007. The school district later opted to surrender the equipment to Kubota. 

Meanwhile, sheriff's investigators assisted by the Texas Ranger and district attorney's office, have found what they believe to be evidence of 35 instances of check forgery, according to Braddy.

The forgery indictments allege thaton 35 different instances Neal "did then and there with intent to defraud harm or another, complete a writing so it purported to be the act of Lydia Walden, who did not authorize the act, and said writing was a check of the tenor following," referring to an exhibit on another page depicting the document.

The forgeries are alleged to have occurred in September, October, and November of 2005 and in January, February, March, June and July of 2006, the indictments note.

District Attorney Braddy said the forgery investigation is not complete.

"We still have to comb through a lot of different expenditures throughout the years, to look through them and see if there are any other instances," Braddy said. "This has already gone on too long. We decided to go forward with the cases we do have and continue to work to see whether or not there are others."

The district attorney said it is "a daunting task" to determine if purchases were made for Neal on his own behalf, or if some of the purchases went to the school while the rest went elsewhere.

"There are some that he had not legitimate reason for," Braddy explained. "He'd buy dog food. He had a dog. The school did not have a dog.

"[There are] just hundreds of little things, and you can't assume they are unauthorized purchases," Braddy said. "He was prone to buy books at bookstores. It has to be determined if the school has them or if he has them. There are hundreds of charges quite difficult to figure out. He had full reign there [Como-Pickton school] that gave him access to different ways of spending."

Braddy said the school has paid for an audit that is good enough for their purposes, but definitely falls short of what his office needs to conduct a criminal investigation.

"Someone will have to sit down and do it," Braddy said. "I don't know if there's anyone at the school that will be able to do that."

Neal has yet to be arrested on the indictments, but his attorney was fully aware of the potential charges, according to Braddy

"They are fully aware of what we have and the potential charges," Braddy said. "This is not a surprise. They've seen what we have."

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