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Former LAUSD 'Food Guru' Charged With Embezzlement, Misappropriation Of Public Funds

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The former director of food services for the Los Angeles Unified School District has been charged with a laundry list of not-great things (15 felony counts in all!), including embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.

David Binkle, who won national acclaim for his push to bring healthier food to the nation's second largest school district, was suspended from his position with LAUSD in 2015 over accusations of mismanaged funds and conflicts of interest. Binkle served as food services director from 2012 until being placed on administrative leave in 2014, according to LA School Report, who wrote that Binkle "was highly regarded and reached a celebrity status in the food world, appearing on Ted Talks and receiving praise from former First Lady Michelle Obama for promoting healthy food in schools."

Binkle was arraigned Tuesday in a Los Angeles court on three counts each of misappropriation of public funds by a public officer, embezzlement of public funds and conflict of interest; five counts of perjury; and one count of forgery, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. City News Service reports that Binkle pleaded not guilty to the charges. The alleged actions were uncovered during a 2013 audit, according to the D.A.'s statement.

Prosecutors allege that Binkle funneled approximately $65,000 from the school district to a culinary club that he controlled as president, and also put some of those funds into his personal bank account. According to the complaint, Binkle made payments from LAUSD to Chef de Cuisine Association of California, his "outside chef's club." Binkle is also accused of forging an application to become a vendor to LAUSD and misappropriating school district funds, as well as failing to report outside financial interests (as is required of a public employee in his position).

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Binkle has denied any wrongdoing. “I have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide since my actions were approved and encouraged from senior district officials, general counsel or the ethics office,” he said in a statement to CBS Los Angeles in February 2015. “I am confident the truth and facts will show the allegations are unsubstantiated.”

If convicted, Binkle could face up to 13 years, eight months in prison.