MIA Mayor Accused of Running Town via WhatsApp

And of stealing $4M from school fund in one of Brazil's poorest states
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2015 11:19 AM CDT
MIA Mayor Accused of Running Town via WhatsApp
This Feb. 19, 2014, file photo shows WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on a smartphone in New York.   (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)

While people in the Brazilian town of Bom Jardim were facing daily economic struggles and teachers stopped getting their paychecks, prosecutors say Mayor Lidiane Leite was partying it up in the Maranhao state capital—and running the town under her charge from 170 miles away via WhatsApp, the BBC reports. After Leite's name was linked to misappropriation of $4 million from the Bom Jardim school system in a sting labeled Operation Eden, the 25-year-old took off for Sao Luis, prompting an arrest warrant to be issued last week for both herself and Beto Rocha, her former adviser and variously reported as her ex-boyfriend or ex-husband. The Telegraph notes that Leite would post pictures on social media from her hideout—including photos of her sipping champagne and hanging out with her personal trainer—boasting of her newfound fortune.

"Before I was mayor I was poor, and had a Land Rover," she reportedly posted on Instagram, per a local newspaper. "Now I'm in a Toyota SW4. … Thanks to God money is no longer a problem. I can buy whatever I want, spend it how I like." It was actually Rocha who originally wanted the mayorship of the town in Maranhao—said to be one of the poorest states in Brazil—when it was up for grabs in 2012, but he was banned from running due to corruption suspicions. He's the one Leite's lawyer says really ran the show. "She was too young and inexperienced when she took office," the attorney says, per the BBC. "She lacked confidence and delegated many tasks to Mr. Rocha." While Brazilian authorities try to track down both Leite and Rocha, Leite's former deputy was sworn in as mayor over the weekend, the broadcaster adds. (Another group that lives in a "fantasy world" of luxuries and perks: Illinois college presidents.)

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