THE FORMER money manager for Bok Technical High School was charged late last week with embezzling nearly $27,000 from the school's student-activity fund.

Zara Sims, 41, of West Philadelphia, was hit with felony charges that include forgery, identity theft and theft by deception, according to court records. She was released on her own recognizance.

Sims, who was laid off July 1 due to budget cuts after 10 years in the district, failed to make deposits of "at least $26,823" into the student funds, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

The money was supposed to pay for extracurricular activities and fund scholarships.

After Sims left, Bok's then-principal, Larry Melton, discovered the deposits hadn't been made and discussed it with Sims. She then deposited about $17,000 into the school account last summer.

"There is still a shortage of approximately $7,033.93 that Ms. Sims collected for the school," the affidavit read. Sims also tried to deposit nearly $11,000 in checks but the bank rejected them as "stale dated" - a check presented six months after it's been dated.

When authorities brought Sims in for questioning on Nov. 1, she told them she wouldn't give a statement and "she did not wish to be arrested." The next day, Sims brought in a certified check for the missing $7,000.

"We will continue to work with the District Attorney's Office to make sure the funds are returned to the school," said district spokesman Fernando Gallard.

The investigation was first reported by the Daily News last month. Sims' arrest came on the same day the district announced Bok is one of 37 schools set for closure in June.

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