Holy Cross ex-principal indicted

Joseph Lemme was accused of taking more than $400,000 in school money.

Posted: June 07, 2007

The former principal of Holy Cross High School in Delran was indicted this week on charges that he stole more than $400,000 of the school's money for field trips and from book sales, according to the Trenton Diocese.

The diocese, which oversees the school, informed parents, teachers and students of the indictment in a letter dated Monday.

In the letter, Judith A. Caviston, the secretary for Catholic education, said the allegations against principal Joseph Lemme were "deplorable."

"I ask you to join me in praying for all those who have been negatively impacted by the unfortunate developments connected to Mr. Lemme, especially, his family who are also victims," she wrote.

The diocese discovered some financial irregularities in an audit last year. Lemme, who had been principal since 2002, was suspended without pay in November and later fired, said diocese spokeswoman Rayanne Bennett.

The diocese later filed a civil lawsuit against Lemme in Monmouth County, where he lived and maintained a bank account, accusing him of taking $233,000 of the school's money.

He then was indicted Monday by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

After filing a subpoena for more records, the diocese discovered more than $415,000 had been missing - the same amount prosecutors accused Lemme of stealing.

Caviston said the diocese was taking "proactive steps" to recover the lost money, and financial controls had been tightened at the school. Bennett said the diocese also was suing Sovereign Bank, where Lemme had an account.

Caviston also said enrollment was growing and the school board was "developing ways to overcome the loss of revenue and avoid any impact to programs or tuition."

An attorney for Lemme did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 856-779-3893 or tgraham@phillynews.com.

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