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Wildenstein to repay more than $31K

 
Wildenstein to repay more than $31K
Maria Elena Wildenstein (left) is led away from her court appearance Nov. 12 in the Wilson County Criminal Justice Center by her attorney, Lorraine Efron.

LA VERNIA -- Former La Vernia Junior High School Principal Maria Elena Wildenstein, 49, has been ordered to repay $31,591.97 in restitution to the La Vernia Independent School District (ISD) as part of a plea agreement approved Nov. 12 by Judge Donna Rayes of the 81st Judicial District.

Wildenstein pled “no contest” to one count of misapplication by a fiduciary totaling more than $20,000 but less than $100,000, in connection with 23 checks belonging to the school’s junior high activity fund that were misapplied from on or about Oct. 14, 2010, to on or about June 26, 2011.

As Rayes reviewed the written plea admonishments and jury waiver, Wildenstein -- flanked by defense attorney Lorraine Efron -- intermittently wept.

“Do you understand what you are doing?” Rayes asked.

“Yes,” Wildenstein said. “It is in my best interest, and in my family’s. Yes, I do understand what I’m doing.”

In addition to repaying the La Vernia ISD, Wildenstein also will pay a $3,000 fine and various court costs. She also is ordered to perform 200 hours of community service at a rate of 16 hours per month as part of her seven years of deferred adjudication probation. If Wildenstein had not waived her right to a jury trial, she faced the possibility of up to 10 years in prison.

Efron asked Rayes if the court would consider probating the fine, in light of the restitution and other fees.

“I consider this to be the plea-bargain agreement,” Rayes said. “I’m not going to vary from it.”

Wildenstein’s case was the last to be heard for the day and the courtroom was mostly empty. However, La Vernia-area residents Mary Bratten, Mary Bordner, and Jennifer Moczygemba were present to witness the proceedings. Moczygemba was instrumental in rallying residents to demand answers of the La Vernia ISD after questions began to surface about the activity fund.

“I just want to see a brighter day for LVISD,” Moczygemba said. “I want to see the children put first in the education process and for people to be held accountable. Hopefully, there are brighter days ahead.”

 
 
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