LHS principal arrested, charged with embezzling more than $10,000

LIBERTY — The Liberty High School principal placed on paid administrative leave after a school records audit in February has been arrested, accused of stealing more than $10,000 from LHS and the School District of Pickens County.

According to SDPC communications director Julie Thompson, district officials received notification Wednesday that Randy Gilstrap had been placed under arrest by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

Gilstrap, 53, of 108 Stadium Heights Lane in Liberty, is currently being held at the Pickens County Law Enforcement Center, facing charges of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, embezzlement of public funds and financial transaction card fraud.

According to SLED arrest warrants, Gilstrap is accused of embezzling more than $10,000 between November 2008 and February 2011 by manipulating deposits and diverting funds intended for use by LHS and SDPC. The warrants also alleged that Gilstrap committed financial transaction card fraud in an amount more than $500 in the past six months, using cards issued by the school district to make unauthorized purchases for personal use.

Gilstrap was originally placed on leave, along with LHS secretary/bookkeeper Buea DeNard, in late February after the school district began a random records audit at Liberty High. Less than a week later, the investigation was turned over to the Liberty Police Department and SLED.

“The School District of Pickens County has cooperated with SLED during an investigation of financial records at Liberty High School,” Thompson said Wednesday afternoon. Thompson said the district would not comment further on the matter at this time.

Liberty Police Chief Corky Miller said a search warrant was carried out on Gilstrap’s home by Liberty officers and SLED agents Wednesday morning.

More arrests are expected in the case, Miller said.
School board chairman Alex Saitta said in e-mail to the Courier Wednesday that the board will give the district office a few days to get all the details from SLED, then meet Monday to get a briefing on the situation.

Saitta said he will ask the board and administration to meet in the near future to find answers to exactly what happened and how, as well as how the SDPC will improve its oversight system so it doesn’t happen again.

“SLED says it started with a dishonest person, but there seems to have been some oversight breakdowns too,” Saitta said.

Assistant principal Lori Gwinn has been in charge of Liberty High since Gilstrap was placed on leave in February.