U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ordered Coates to desist and repay $175,000 in restitution to the Archdiocese of Washington.
In court filings, Coates, who said his family has served the archdiocese for seven generations, admitted to writing 66 unauthorized Home School Association checks and depositing the money in his personal bank account. Coates took $14,000 to qualify for a loan to buy her home in Virginia in 2013. She also admitted to using the money to spend more than $19,463 on products from luxury fashion designers including Louis Vuitton, Karen Millen, Kate Spade and Michael Kors, prosecutors said.
Coates gave herself an additional $85,000 that may have gone to school-related expenses that prosecutors did not charge her at sentencing, and the school filed an insurance claim. of $260,000, according to sentencing documents.
U.S. prosecutors Jeffrey S. Nestler and Marco Crocetti have sought a 33-month sentence, saying Coates abused parents’ trust in a ‘continuing and brazen’ scheme that embezzled money meant to enrich education and lives of low-income students.
Defense attorney Robert L. Jenkins Jr. called for home confinement, calling Coates’ crime a complete aberration in the life of a gifted educator who turned a failing K-8 school of about 150 students in one of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods. Only 20% of eighth graders passed the Catholic high school entrance test requirements when she started and 100% did so when she left, supporters said.
Coates became “emotionally overwhelmed” by her job and her mental health issues, Jenkins wrote. In one of more than 50 letters of support, the Rev. Patrick A. Smith, pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church and School in northwest Washington, added that “the passion and compassion of Coates for the children in his school were both his greatest strength and his greatest responsibility.”
Coates created a Saturday high school placement test prep class, taught classes when teachers were short, and served as elected president of a Catholic elementary school principals’ committee when she stepped down, said supporters. She started after-school programs, including a choir that was invited to perform by congressional leaders, and was invited with students to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in 2016, supporters said.
Like many educators, Coates provided gifts, food and supplies to support students, teachers and school events without compensation, Jenkins wrote. But unlike many, Coates also faced drug trafficking, child abuse, multiple shootings at and around school, law enforcement raids on employees who turned out to be fugitives. and the closure of many majority or all-black Catholic schools, supporters said. .
Coates said in a 14-page letter to the judge that she also personally struggled with illness, unsafe housing, hoarding, depression and an unhealthy obsession with work and the appearance of success as her private life unraveled. turned into loneliness and food problems.
“All of this brought her to a very depressing and dark place, and when she needed support the most, he was surprisingly absent in a faith-filled environment from those around her,” Patrick said.
In his letter, Coates apologized to his victims, the leaders of the Home School Association, his students, their families, teachers and staff.
“I loved my students as if they were my own and I am truly sorry for hurting them by my actions,” Coates wrote, adding, “My students expected me to do the right thing and I failed.”
A victim impact statement submitted to the court by St. Thomas More School did not seek a specific sentence, but said, “We pray that this process will allow Ms. Coates to face the human consequences of her actions and give her the opportunity to rehabilitate. »