Ex-school district officials who resigned after texting scandal are now charged with theft

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COATESVILLE, Pennsylvania — Two former officials at a suburban Philadelphia school district who resigned after a text message scandal are now charged with stealing money from the district, prosecutors announced Monday.

Former Coatesville Area School District superintendent Richard Como and athletic director James Donato are charged with theft of school district funds and violations of the state's ethics act for public employees.

Both resigned in September 2013 amid allegations they had exchanged racist and sexist texts on their district cellphones. Chester County prosecutors said material in the messages also prompted an investigation into possible financial improprieties.

Prosecutors allege Como took money meant to pay for school football rings and received reimbursement for fraudulent expenses. He also transferred money into a secret district account to hide his illegal activity, they say. Donato stole thousands of dollars from the district by using his position to schedule "off the books" events and then pocketed the money instead of putting it into the school district's account, prosecutors said.

Donato's attorney, Daniel Bush, said the defense intends to make prosecutors "prove in depth the things that they have alleged."

"The allegation that James Donato was living some kind of lavish lifestyle and that he committed these crimes to support that couldn't be further from the truth," he said.

Como's attorney didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

Last year, District Attorney Thomas Hogan said the text messages exchanged by the pair "were of a shockingly racist nature" and "looked like something from 1813, not 2013."

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