On Your Side Investigation: Springfield private school founder ordered to pay back teacher retirement funds used for vacations

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 3:52 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Springfield private school founder is ordered to pay the Department of Labor thousands of dollars. Courtney Ungaro is accused of pocketing from teacher retirement funds and using the money for vacations.

Three years ago, teachers at her private school told us their paychecks were short, and sometimes their paychecks would bounce.

Court documents read Ungaro used the money to pay for vacations, cars, clothes, and a birthday party for her son. Now, she’s ordered to pay it back.

David Rice was a teacher at the now-closed Perspectives Preparatory Academy. He said years ago, he confronted Ungaro when his paychecks were short.

“I said listen, this has to be made right. If you make it right, I’m okay with it. Fix the problem. They refused to make it right,” said Rice.

That’s when teachers started talking to On Your Side and the school aimed at helping kids with special needs and those who are academically gifted -- closed.

At the time, Ungaro told On Your Side everyone was paid up.

“Any employee who had money owed to them has been paid. Any issues as far as they felt the money was owed, I have openly talked with and fulfilled those obligations that I have committed to,” said Courtney Ungaro in April of 2020.

Teachers and federal investigators disagree. As On Your Side first told you last December, the Department of Labor filed a civil lawsuit against Ungaro, saying she took retirement contributions to fund personal expenses, like vacations, cars, clothes, and a birthday party for her son.

Ungaro never responded in the case and now has a default judgment. She owes about $19,000. Rice is one of the teachers listed. Court records show Ungaro took more than $1,400 from his retirement.

“That’s lower than what I would have expected, honestly. When you put in my health insurance, disability insurance, they underpaid me for two years. It all adds up,” he said.

The judgment shows Ungaro is banned from operating an employee benefit plan.

Earlier this month, Ungaro was charged with passing a bad check to the Department of Revenue in a different case. Court documents indicate there was a ‘purpose to defraud.’

Ungaro has not filed a response.

On Your Side asked her for comment about this case and the Department of Labor case. She said to contact an attorney who is not on either of these cases mentioned in this report. We have not heard back from him.

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