JUANITA WORTHY was principal at the U.S. Wiggins Elementary School in Camden when she defrauded the taxpayers of New Jersey by falsifying work records for herself, her daughter, and others. Fortunately she was caught. Unfortunately she was offered the opportunity to accept a plea bargain and escaped jail time. Worthy was banned from public employ in New Jersey. After her arrest, Worthy resigned her position and began collecting a state pension. Now that she has admitted her theft, it remains to be seen if she will be allowed to continue receiving money that she forfeited any moral claim to when the broke the law.  

Camden Courier-Post * December 3, 2006

Ex-principal Admits Role In Scam

By Adam Smeltz

A former city principal admitted her role Tuesday in a school scam plot, pleading guilty to attempted theft in Superior Court.

Juanita Worthy, 61, of Evesham had faced additional charges of conspiracy, official misconduct, tampering with witnesses and tampering with public records. Those charges, if upheld, could have yielded her more than 10 years in prison and six-digit fines.

But in an agreement with the state, Worthy pleaded guilty only to the attempted-theft charge, according to the state Office of the Attorney General.

The state will recommend a sentence of probation, the Attorney General's office reported. Worthy has already resigned her position at U.S. Wiggins Elementary School and will be barred from public-sector jobs in New Jersey.

"We're obviously very relieved that it's over for her," said Brian McMonagle, Worthy's Philadelphia-based attorney. "She always wanted to accept responsibility, and we're greatly relieved that she certainly won't face any prison consequences as a result of what happened."

Worthy admitted that she helped try to bill the city schools for labor that never happened, according to the state. The scheme attempted to secure $25,000 in extra wages for 14 School Leadership Council members, including Worthy, the state alleged.

Four school employees were charged in the case in March 2007. The other three defendants are Worthy's daughter Keah Worthy, 32, of Evesham; Michael Hailey, 67, of Delran; and Patricia Johnson, 59, of Atco.

Hailey and Johnson pleaded guilty to two charges apiece. The state has recommended that they receive three- to five-year state prison sentences.

Keah Worthy also pleaded guilty to attempted theft by deception. Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Holden is scheduled to sentence all four on Feb. 6.

As for Juanita Worthy's plea agreement, a spokesman for Attorney General Anne Milgram limited his comments Tuesday.

"We believe this is an appropriate resolution as far as this defendant is concerned," said the spokesman, Peter Aseltine. He said he could not comment further on the plea.

Juanita Worthy hopes that former students and colleagues "will recognize that in her tenure, there was a lot of good, and that they'll forgive her for this lapse in judgment," McMonagle said.