Los Alamitos High School Swim Team 1981

A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years Later

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. 

When I went to college, my boyfriend informed me that I was provincial. From a province. He was from Queens, New York, and commuted an hour each way to a New York city magnet school. I protested that I was from a beach town. A suburban beach town! But he was right. I was provincial and my local politics prove it. Corruption is easy to pull off in a province.

The year is 1983. The month is June. Seniors are about to graduate but there is one thing left for me to do: I have to run the All Student Body Elections.

This cast of characters at Los Alamitos High School 30 years ago:

Tom Anthony: Vice Principal and in charge of Student Council. He’s going to University of Southern California (USC) at night to get his PhD in Education. He’s a young, affable guy and everyone really likes him, myself included, at least until THE CHEATING INCIDENT!

Tom Anthony

Mia Wenjen:  I’m the Student Representative to the School Board. Ddmittedly, it’s a lame Student Council position, strictly for resume building. I may have even been appointed. I really can’t remember. My job is to attend School Board meetings which is harder than it sounds because it’s a snoozefest, and run the All Student Body elections for the next year’s student council.

Mark Abrams: A few years my senior, Mark at the tender age of 18 or so was the youngest person ever elected to the School Committee. He is a rising star in the politico world and in a different class than me. We, for example, never exchange words, even when we are sitting next to each other.

Phillip Swagel: I describe him as the smartest kid in my high class but my husband would correct me to say that he’s one of the smartest people in the United States. With a PhD in Economics from Harvard, he was the Senate Confirmed Economist under Paulson who engineered the Investment Banking bailouts: AIG, Bear Stears, Lehman Brothers and the rest. Each blow up ruined his weekend. In high school, he was the only kid with a computer and, naturally, a wiz at programming.

phillip swagel

John Orr: He was class of 1983 with me and on Student Council. Was he the treasurer? I can’t remember. His father is the Dean of USC’s School of Education where, you might have noticed, Vice Principal Tom Anthony is enrolled.

Shelley Sandusky: She’s the class of 1984 — one year younger —  and John Orr’s girlfriend. They are both in drama club. She is running for ASB President and is a nice and smart person but not a “popular.”

Rich Morgan : He is the football quarterback who is also nice and smart. He’s running for ASB President as well. He’s popular as football star players tend to be who are also nice, smart and good looking.


I’m pretty burnt out of high school. I’m off to college back east and ready to blow this popsicle stand. It seems so confining. So many rules. So little freedom. But I need to run the elections as my final duty for my Student Council position. I wrangle Phill Swagel into writing a program for me that will count the scantron ballots which total around 1700.

The election process is fairly straight forward. Call for nominees. A round of speeches and then the voting and  count the ballots. A scanner with Phill’s program makes quick work of it. Phill and I are done in less than an hour. We tally the winners, rubber band the ballots, and bring it to Mr. Tom Anthony who will announce the winners over the loudspeaker the next morning.

Only the next day, I can’t believe my ears. The ASB President winner is Rich (I can’t remember his last name) who won by a landslide. Only Mr. Anthony is announcing that it’s Shelley Sandusky.

Furious, I race to his office to confront him. I’m told by his secretary that I am not allowed to scream at him. I don’t care. I accuse him of cheating. That he’s just a loser shop teacher trying to social climb his way to Principal. That he can’t stop me from going to college. He claims that he did a recount that night and my tally was wrong.

“Liar!” I said. “There’s no way you did a hand tally. That would take hours. I am the only one with the computer program. There’s no way you spent hours counting ballots.”

I demand a recount. I get the ballots, find Phill and we’re off to the library for a recount using his program to rescan the ballots. Now it gets weird.

We are missing several hundred ballots (350?) but the winners of all the other offices — VP, Secretary, Treasurer, and rest of the offices — remain the same. Did Mr. Anthony throw out 350 ballots? If so, why didn’t the winners of the other offices change? Some of those positions were in close contention. Much closer than ASB President. Did he fill out replacement ballots with Shelley’s name keeping the other offices the same but ran out of time or motivation to complete the full number? He probably did not realize I had a total ballot count by way of the program. We could not figure out definitively what had happened. And where did those missing ballots go? I searched the waste basket but it wasn’t in his office. Maybe he took them home?

I track down Rich, the real winner. I tell him that he really won. By a landslide. By 4:1 margins. He shrugs. I tell him to get his parents involved. He won’t. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is too humiliating to fight for the office. Maybe it isn’t worth the fuss to him. Would it make a difference for college? I don’t know. All the smart kids at my high school want to go to Stanford and only a small handful  — 4 at the most — get accepted from our high school.

I’m tired. Tired of high school. It’s not my battle. I did my part and tried to run an honest election but it’s clear to me that this is truly what democracy is: corrupt. Those with power manipulate the results. India is like this and so many other countries that have “democracies.” I’m a jaded teenage. I’ve been reading too much Ayn Rand and Catcher in the Rye. I am sickened but there’s nothing I can do.

Why did Mr. Anthony do this? Is it for dinner invitations at the Orr house? Is his PhD dissertation defense in jeopardy? (He’s a nice guy, but truly not that smart.) Does he think he is doing right by letting Drama Nerd win over Popular Athlete? This is 1983, after all. Decades before High School Musical!

About five years ago, curiosity got the best of me and I called my old high school under an assumed name to find out what happened to Tom Anthony. Posing as “Helen Lee”, I chatted up his secretary. [An assumed name was necessary because I am persona non grata after my little incident.] She gushed about him saying that he was so successful, moving up from Principal to Superintertent in the San Juan Capistrano School District, about 30 miles south.

One of south Orange County’s leading school administrators may leave his post to head a San Diego County school district, officials said Monday.

Thomas R. Anthony, Capistrano Unified’s associate superintendent of secondary schools, is one of two candidates being considered for the superintendent position at Grossmont Union High School District, a suburban school system in eastern San Diego County. LA Times

If selected, Anthony will leave 37,000-student Capistrano Unified for a district of 22,000 high school students, one of the largest secondary school districts in the state.

Anthony, 51, has spent the past 11 years at Capistrano Unified as a district administrator and principal at Capistrano Valley High School.

“I would be sad, really sad” to leave Orange County if given the San Diego job, Anthony said. “I’ve developed a lot of great friendships with administrators, teachers and students here.”

I have a brief fantasy of faxing my story over to the local newspaper. Superintendents are sometimes elected positions. But I am busy raising three kids and though usually good for holding a grudge, it seemed a extreme, even for me.

Now I realized that it’s been 30 years so it’s time for the true story to be heard. Tom Anthony must be retired by now, and it seems that the lesson here is that cheating does pay off. Or does it?

I did a recent google search and found this doozy.

Superintendent Tom Anthony has been sent packing from Fallbrook, December 13, 2007

Along with Ed Brand, Tom Anthony exerted a lot of control over San Diego County Office of Education. Or would it be more correct to say that through Ed Brand and Tom Anthony, Diane Crosier of the SDCOE-JPA exerted a lot of control over school districts? Either way, the personal advancement of individuals in high places has taken precedence over the well being of students in San Diego County.

Fallbrook has gotten rid of Tom Anthony. But has the rest of the county gotten rid of him?

and this …

FALLBROOK — Tom Anthony, the embattled leader of the Fallbrook Union High School District, will resign as superintendent Jan. 11, 2007 under a $319,931 buyout agreement that took effect Tuesday, officials said.

The arrangement requires the district to pay Anthony 18 months of salary — or $281,000 — plus health and other benefits through June 2010. Those figures are spelled out in Anthony’s contract, which would have ended then.

While no one contacted for this story would discuss the reasons behind Anthony’s departure, district teachers have complained for years about what they call his intimidating leadership style.

When polled in March, 122 of the district’s 150 teachers answered “Strongly disagree” to the statement “I have confidence in the leadership of the superintendent.”


Anthony, who is 62, took over as superintendent in 1997.

The friction extends as far back as 2001, when then-technology director Doug Newton was fired after accessing the
telephone voicemail of several teachers who were protesting salary issues.

Newton later charged that Anthony ordered him to gain access to the district-owned voicemail system…

Fallbrook High School Teacher’s Association President Tim Oder accused Anthony of running the campaigns of Fran White and Jim Hutcherson, who are both seeking re-election for the board in November.

“We have a tremendous problem in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District —- it is people who have abused their power and abused taxpayers’ money,” said Oder.


Oh, Tom Anthony. You are the same person when I was in high school! The more things change, the more they stay the same. You are still up to your old tricks! It seems election fraud is your speciality!


Thomas Anthony, retired in 2009 as superintendent of the Fallbrook Union High School District, San Diego, receives $173,812 or 89 percent of his salary.

[Rudy Castruita, retired in 2006 as superintendent to the San Diego County Office of Education, receives $281,034 or 107 percent of his salary. Rudy was the principal of my high school during this same period.]

Castruita receives the region’s top educator pension of $281,034 a year, or 107 percent of his final salary. That pay in retirement exceeds U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s 2009 base salary of $196,700. Castruita, a 1992 state superintendent of the year, did not return several calls. San Diego Education Report


After a little more Googling, I found out what happened to Tom Anthony…


The Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District will have a new superintendent starting in June, 2011.

The school board voted last week to hire Michael Reid to replace Interim Superintendent Thomas Anthony at the end of the school year, according to the district. Anthony is a retired administrator from San Diego and was brought in to act as interim superintendent after former Superintendent Douglas Oliveira left for a coaching position at College of the Redwoods.

So that is cheater 1. What do you think? Despite being thrown out, he seems to have fared pretty well. Cheating agrees with him.


Cheater 2 is that promising politco Mark Alan Abrams. He became a real estate broker in the Los Angeles Beverly Hills area where he conducted a series of mortgage frauds affecting Lehman Brothers that went down like this:

  1. Buy the cheapest house in a nice area. For the sake of illusrtation, we’ll call this $500,000.
  2. Do nothing to the house.
  3. Sell it for an inflated price (We’ll call this $1,000,000) to a buyer you are in cahoots with.
  4. Have the house appraised by a crooked appraiser for $1,000,000.
  5. When the bank runs a computer appraisal, it will check out as the homes in that area are in the $1,000,000 range.
  6. Have the new owner take a second mortgage on the house. Default on the mortages. Take the money, split it among yourselves and run.
  7. Do this over and over again.

For a long time, Mark and his partner in crime lived high on the hog, Bernie Madoff style. When it came to a head, his partner tried to escape to Mexico but was captured and extradited. Mark is now serving a 6 1/2 year sentence in jail.

Mark Alan Abrams, 49, of downtown Los Angeles, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. In addition to the prison term, Judge Pregerson ordered Abrams to pay more than $41 million in restitution to two federally insured banks.

Abrams and Fitzgerald ran a wide-ranging and sophisticated scheme that obtained inflated mortgage loans on homes in some of California’s most expensive neighborhoods, including Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Malibu, Carmel, Mill Valley, Pebble Beach, and La Jolla. Members of the conspiracy—real estate brokers, appraisers, and mortgage bankers, who all shared in the profits from the fraudulent sales—sent false documentation, including bogus purchase contracts and appraisals, to the victim banks to deceive them into funding mortgage loans that were hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the homes actually cost. Lehman Brothers Bank alone was deceived into funding more than 80 such inflated loans from 2000 into 2003, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in losses.


February 15, 2005 | From Times Staff Reports

A week after the city Ethics Commission levied a record $270,000 fine against developer Mark Alan Abrams for laundering political contributions, the panel’s executive director accused six former Abrams associates Monday of participating in the scheme. 
Mark Abrams isn’t making any friends either by the comments from this post:
  1. I owe this guy a SERIOUS beat-down from when he used my friend’s dad’s name and literally almost ruined him. My friend’s dad had a severe heart attack because Mark Abrams defrauded him and my friends family back in 1989-1990. My friend’s dad trusted Mark and he drove my friend’s dad to almost ruins health wise. Listen up chump, if I ever find you Mark, I will, with my own bare hands rip your throat out and piss in your neck. Comment by Mark Abrams Hater — April 4, 2007 @ 6:31 pm
  2. Hey Mark, remember the white BMW you “sold” me? Remember me making payments to you that you never paid the lien holder to the car? Remember disappearing on me and sending my credit to the toilet because of this and the BMW you “sold” me was repossessed? I swear if I find you or if I find out where you are jailed, I will make sure the rest of your life is miserable. If I do find you before you go to jail, I will stuff every bill you left me with up your ass. You will pay for what you did to me and my family. I GUARANTEE that, you crooked ass loser. Comment by Mark Abrams Hater — April 5, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

I would guess that he is getting some serious beat downs in jail but maybe that doesn’t happen in white collar jail?


You remember that my friend Phillip Swagel was in charge of figuring out what to do when the sub-prime mortgage economic meltdown happened. How strange that a kid from our high school had a role in this. Phill ultimately decided not to bail out Lehman Brothers.


The world is small and everyone is connected. And it seems that character flaws that seem small continue  on their path of destruction, leaving many, many victims in its wake.


As for Shelley Sandusky, she got into Stanford. Would she have been admitted had she not been ASB President? Who knows? Would Rich have gotten that coveted spot if he had claimed his rightful position thus demonstrating Leadership which all top colleges love to see? I think he ended up at U.C.L.A.

We’ll never know. Like many kids at top schools who wonder how the heck they got in, she should know that she caught a break. But it’s not so much how you got in, as what you do with it. Shelley is currently an attorney at The Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC), located in San Francisco, which represents indigent men and women under sentence of death in California. The HCRC’s mission is to provide timely, high-quality legal representation for indigent petitioners in death penalty habeas corpus proceedings before the Supreme Court of California and the federal courts.

As for my provincial high school, I have to say that things are pretty exciting in the sleepy town of Los Alamitos where my high school is. We may be country bumpkins, but we aren’t boring!

Los Alamitos High School Swim Team 1981

Los Alamitos High School Swim Team, 1981. I’m the far right in the front row.

p.s. My thanks to Stacy Pollard Zuanich and Andy Morrissey for their help on Facebook recalling the names of the cast. Is it Rich Hernandez who was denied his ASB Presidentship? Also thank you to Rhonda Schwandt for the swim team photo. Good times!

p.p.s. Final thank you to Shelley Sandusky for identifying Rich Morgan as the person who ran against her and for weighing in.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. There are far too many stories like this! Having worked in the NYC schools, I could relate many a tale of injustice. Who says, ” Life is fair?” Thanks for doing all the research and sharing your experience.
    Barbara Mojica recently posted…TURTLE TRUTHSMy Profile

    • Thanks Barbara,
      It was such a shock to see that Tom Anthony continued to do this kind of shady dealings and I’m glad to see that justice finally (somewhat) caught up with him though his retirement package is still quite generous. I wonder if he is a schemer and a liar or just in over his head with his administration role. Or perhaps both.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Kids Can Learn Spanish Through SongsMy Profile

  2. WOW! That is an incredible story. Sometimes I wonder if there is simply corruption of some kind on some level everywhere. I taught my kiddo that “cheaters never win, and winner never cheat” but sometimes I am not so sure they work in today’s world. Like Barbara, I taught in the NYC school system and left because of a principal with whom I had major disagreements. She was later arrested for taking $50,000 meant for students and forcing the teachers to throw her a big birthday party at their expense.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    Alex Baugh recently posted…Nasreddine retold by Odile Weulersse, illustrated by Rebecca DaubremerMy Profile

  3. Dee

    Wow, what a story! But like you say, not all that unusual. I could totally see my son’s school principal pulling shenanigans like this – she is all about appearances and political clout.

    I feel lucky for the administrators I had in high school. I realize now that I’m a parent how truly special they were. Our principal was a prince of a guy. He passed away suddenly while we were in school and they had a HUGE funeral procession for him. Every student in our school of 2,500 turned out and many tears were shed. It was incredibly sad. Our assistant principal was also our class advisor. Another prince of a guy. A tough guy, but also one who tried to see the good in every kid – even the ones who made it really difficult! He had the demeanor of a drill sargent, but the heart of a poet.

    I see all the shenanigans that go on here at our school boards (our school system is whacked with multiple school boards). I think it’s outrageous that superintendents like your Mr. Anthony get such sweet deals after wrong doing! I’m impressed that as a student you had the sense of self and right to stand up to him. I tell Dylan that there are bad people in the world, but most are good and will try to stand up for what’s right.
    Dee recently posted…We can rebuild him. He is the Six Billion Star Man.My Profile

    • Hi Dee,
      It’s good to know that you have good school administrators! I’m glad they exist elsewhere in the world outside of Los Alamitos, California! It is surprising that Tom Anthony would get such a sweet deal, particularly in light of the financial crisis California is going through. And I’m glad you are teaching Dylan right from wrong; if the parents don’t do that, kids don’t learn. I wonder if Tom Anthony’s parents knew he was a cheater and a liar? Or condoned such behavior and if Tom Anthony teaches his own kids to get ahead any way that you can get away with. I mean, it worked for him. I would not be surprised if his own children lie and cheat too. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  4. Barbara Caruso

    Great read, Mia! Thanks for the research!

    It was Richie Tyler who was the legit winner. He’s a nice guy who sells insurance now, is married and has three kids. I often wondered what happened to Rudy Castruita, who finished his doctorate in time for us to call him Dr. in our senior year. He was only a small step above Tom Anthony, and I was barred from him office early in the school year. Conflict resolutions skills were lacking in the principals’ offices at Los Al!

    Many congrats to Philip! You forgot to mention that he also tutored Brooke Shields while at Princeton, if I remember correctly!

    • Hi Barbara!
      Nice to hear from you! How on earth could you ever be barred from Tom Anthony’s office? Or was it Rudy Castruita? Rudy and Tom went to USC together at the same time for the PhDs so they were clearly quite close. I wonder too if Rudy helped Tom get that Superintendent position down in San Diego. You might notice that Rudy ended there as well. I actually always liked Rudy and had a lot of respect for him. He seemed like a sharp guy. What was your run in with him?

      Thanks for identifying the real winner. I remember it was Rich but for the life of me could not remember his last name. Did he play football? Did you know that he won the election all those years ago? Do you know why he didn’t want to confront Tom Anthony about that?

      Los Al … I wonder of all high school admininstrations are as crooked. They run their own fiefdom and get away with a lot since there isn’t anyone there to police them.

      And please send Richie Tyler my best.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  5. I didn’t know the back story you relate above, and find it interesting and sad. Part of my sadness is that you still have so much anger about it, which certainly was palpable back then. I thought I had legitimately won, and could not understand why this bitter senior was raining on my parade. But for such a “thoroughly researched” piece, you might have spelled my name right. And maybe bothered to look into the other qualifications that got this “nice but not popular” bumpkin into Stanford. (Three other Los Al students got into Stanford that year, all with similar GPAs, test scores, and other activities, but none, obviously, who also held the “coveted position” of ASB President.). In fact, why drag me and Rich “I don’t remember his last name” into your recounting at all? If you can’t even get our names right, perhaps there are other key details you have forgotten as well.

    • Hi Shelley,
      Sorry for misspelling your name. I just fixed it. I’m sorry to tell you the truth of what happened and I truly have nothing against you. I wish you had legitimately won but High School politics, at least at our school, rewards the athletic, the beautiful and the popular. I tried to find the stat for Stanford for what percent of the class were ASB presidents but I couldn’t find it. I remember at Harvard it was an astounding high stat which is why I pondered that factor. High GPA, test scores and other activities are required to get into any top school; of course, I know that.

      But there are many who have that plus more, as surely you realized when you met your classmates at Stanford. I’m sure you must have my experience at Harvard when you realized what an academically poor high school we both attended. The line between who qualifies for a school like Stanford and who actually gets in is a fine one. In fact, in my year only one person got into Stanford. It was Phill Swagel and he declined to attend Princeton.

      The ballots remained missing. I checked the wastebaskets in Tom Anthony’s office and could not find them. The fact that he got away with cheating has always galled me. Apparently this was a pattern that he repeated and finally it caught up with him but not in a very punitive way. But how funny and strange to think that he spend hours filling in new scantron ballots to throw the election.

      I’m sorry if you’d rather have not had know the truth.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  6. Hey Mia. I’m fine with knowing the “truth,” but not fine with reckless speculation about its consequences for those not involved with the perpetration of the fraud. I understand why you want your story of intrigue to include real consequences for the players – that makes good copy – but to suggest that I got an unfair advantage in college admissions and in life without presenting the ways in which I may have legitimately earned those advantages is dishonest and, itself, unfair. I think if you put yourself in my shoes, as someone who worked very hard for what she achieved in life, you would understand why your suggestion that I did not earn whatever successes I’ve had would rankle me.

    • Hi Shelley,
      I’m not saying that you didn’t “deserve” to get into Stanford. Those admissions decisions, as we all know, are impossible to predict and frankly stacked as well, but don’t get me started (http://jadeluckclub.com/category/asian-in-america/dont-id-as-asian-when-applying-to-college/). Yes, being ASB President may not have mattered. Or, it could have. Who knows? Yes, many ASB presidents get routinely rejected from Stanford as well. Yes, you have to have the scores, the grades and the activities and then the je ne sais quoi to get in. That’s just how admissions rolls.

      For example, if you weren’t ASB President, would Helen Kim who didn’t get in to Stanford but had high grades, scores and did activities as well gotten in instead?? She went to MIT. Admissions at Stanford are stacked against Asian Americans as well, so just applying as Asian puts her at a huge statistical disadvantage. And if Stanford limits admission to 4 kids at Los Alamitos High School, more or less, would it have made a difference? And MIT ended up being the wrong school for her but would Stanford have been better for her? So, who knows how things turn out? What a weird path life takes, right?

      My freshman dorm mate became Admissions Director at Harvard though she’s since left that position and I honestly know enough about admissions at top schools to know that it’s a crap shoot and minute differences can sway the balance from case to case.

      My point is that Tom Anthony fixing the elections also has consequences not to be taken lightly. Your successes should be commended. I’m sure that you did very well at Stanford and deserve everything you have achieved. It’s not your fault that Tom Anthony did what he did. It’s not like you asked him to or had any influence over it. But what he did wasn’t fair. To you or to Rich.

      And you are right about the anger but it’s not towards you. It’s that I was powerless to fix a situation that was a lie. It has always bothered me that Tom Anthony got away with it and god knows what else in his career.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  7. BTW, as you know, it was Rich Morgan, not Richie Tyler.
    Shelley Sandusky recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  8. Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    Thanks for sharing your story Mia – I would have been completely outraged as well. It’s the worse feeling when you are completely powerless in the face of gross and blatant injustice. I have had a few examples in my life where people in positions of power have lied and cheated affecting the lives of the people around them. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. Now, that I’m older, what I tell myself is that they don’t have to be taken down a notch – they have to live with the knowledge of their dishonesty. They have to look in their children’s eyes and live a lie. The human mind doesn’t do well with dissonance (e.g., teaching your children to live their lives a certain way, but doing the exact opposite). As we grow older, that dissonance manifests itself in ways we don’t fully understand (i.e., not in a good way). I place my integrity above all else and it sounds like you do too!
    Renee recently posted…Summer Reading Weekly Book Giveaway 2013: Week #8My Profile

    • Hi Renee,
      Yes, that you for putting it so eloquently. That’s exactly how I felt. Powerless in the face of blatant injustice plus with my name on the line that this was legit. It really put me off politics forever.

      I wonder if Tom Anthony has any regrets for how he’s achieved his professional success. I have a feeling that he doesn’t but I guess I will never know. But I think it’s clear in Fallbrook (or where ever he lives) that he’s a man of low character.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  9. Jen Arrow

    I love that you guys were so ahead of the curve in high school and that this guy never expected to be challenged by high schoolers. I am so curious as to how he pulled it off. Do you have any latter-day theories? Have you heard from any of the participants?

    • Hi Jen,
      I think he threw out hundreds of ballots and filled out new ones but didn’t replace all of them because it was very time consuming to redo them all. Shelley has weighed in several times in the comment chain below. I haven’t heard from Rich yet but he’s been identified as Rich Morgan. I don’t think I’m Facebook friends with him but I’ll try to contact him to let him to get his point of view.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years LaterMy Profile

  10. Injustice is everywhere. Which is sad. Hope one day justice will serve these people right.
    Shaun Hoobler recently posted…game dev story appMy Profile

    • Hi Shaun,
      It is sad that a Vice Principal would throw a student election for his own benefit and distant benefit at that. I guess his cheating habits eventually caught up with him but without punitive measures except for being outed as a man of little to no character. Which I’m sure doesn’t bother him much.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Best Free eBooks for KidsMy Profile

  11. Richard Morgan

    Mia, not sure what to say about this incredibly amazing revelation, other than, if true, it’s a terribly sad commentary on the Castruita/Anthony Administration but emblamatic of the K-12 education system that ranks near the bottom of the developed world and which cares more about the largess of its Union members than the students they’re entrusted to educate. Moreover, I’m taking Tom Anthony off my Xmas card list! Yes, it was me that ran against Shelley for ASB President. I do recall being surprised by the announcement when all the “exit polling” data suggested otherwise. To wage protest seemed futile, and honestly, wasn’t my style (only now as a parent, I would be a hellish thorn in an administrator’s side if he/she did that to my child). I had much respect for Shelley and I believed she was qualified to lead our school as student body president. She was smart, witty, and my friend. Stanford was lucky to have her. As for me, I attended U.C.S.D. and went on to be the president of my graduate school of business at CU. All’s good in my world and I hope in your’s too!

    • Hi Rich,
      It’s good to hear from you! I have to say that I have always wondered if Tom Anthony’s highjacking of your class’s ASB election was a one time event or a pattern of corrupt behavior and I have always regretted that I was unable to fix the injustice that happened. It was a terrible feeling to watch it unfold and be helpless to correct it.

      Did Tom Anthony get kicked out of Fallbrook’s school district? Yes, that seems to be a well documented fact. Buying out his contract as a way to get rid of him during a recession when schools were hard hit speaks volumes. And taxpayers could ill afford his salary plus that of a replacement. I’m sure he was in over his head and unable to actually lead people since he rose through the ranks by currying favor without real leadership or administrative skills.

      I wonder if he did any shenanigans in San Juan Capistrano District where he was the Principal of the high school as well as assistant superintendent? I actually emailed both districts this link to see if this post ends up in front of Tom Anthony. I think he’s probably too much of a coward to respond as to why he did this to you, thirty years ago. Is he really on your Christmas card list? How ironic!

      I’m glad that you are doing well and it closes the loop on what I felt was personal unfinished business. Regrets are tough for me to stomach!

      Tom Anthony: if you have any guts at all, please weigh in. Do you have any regrets or remorse for what you did? While your retirement package is quite generous, I would think that the respect of your peers and former colleagues would not have been worth the extra $$ but that is me.
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  12. Neil Fischer

    Hello, Mia. I do understand your wish to expose what you perceived to be a wrong perpetrated so many years ago, but your article takes a problematic turn when you conflate the alleged fraud in 1983 with speculation on the consequences for the innocent players in your story.

    Why was it necessary not only to name Shelley Sandusky but also to suggest that her achievements may have been due, in part, to an unfair advantage that was somehow activated by this high school election? I would have been more interested to hear what it felt like for you: a smart teenage girl who felt helpless and angry when confronted with what she believed to be corruption. How did this experience shape your youthful consciousness, affect your relationship to authority, and what role did it play in forming your sense of justice and integrity? How did your bewilderment and frustration in this situation alter your sense of culture, politics, and society? Those, to me, are far more intriguing questions that deserve richer exploration.

    The conflation of the alleged fraud and Shelley’s accomplishments is specious for one thing, and the connection you make is dubious. As you readily admit, we cannot know the mechanisms behind college admissions, and we certainly cannot guess at the bias of such decisions made thirty years ago. So then, why use this kind of speculation as a central element in your argument? For your article to be journalistically – and logically – sound, you need to examine the ways in which Shelley may have legitimately earned the advantages that you suggest were, in some ways, possibly stacked for her after this election in 1983.

    You do admit in the thread of responses following the article that Shelley’s accomplishments are commendable, but your article itself leaves the feeling that you have unfairly over-reached when it comes to her “role.” For the record, Shelley has led an impeccable life of achievement and generosity; she has done outstanding work at Stanford and beyond; she has helped many people and diligently committed herself to the improvement of society in a way that should make anyone proud and grateful. I do recognize that you are not denying Shelley’s accomplishments, but your article, read without the thread of comments following it, introduces an ambiguous taint on those accomplishments, as if we should suspect their worthiness. This is unfair, and it appears, unintentional.

    Sometimes, un-scrutinized ideas leak unwittingly from what we write, and I think that has happened here. Reading this piece, I feel like you may have started in one direction, and then the focus got fuzzy and became about something other than what may have really mattered to you. What did it mean then (and what has it meant since) for you to be so attuned to justice and consequence and to have lost illusions? Indeed, you were brave to confront the situation at the high school so many years ago – to walk in the office of an administrator and demand a corrective action. But what did those gestures of defiance mean for you back then? How did it feel for them not to work? What is justice? What is illusion? What does it mean to come up against both when so young and alert and trusting? I’d be more interested to hear you dig deeper with these and other such questions.

    • Hi Neil,
      Thank you for your perspective. Actually, the focus of my post was really two fold:
      1) That Tom Anthony continued to do underhanded and, frankly, illegal activities for 30 years and while getting thrown out of his last position, really did not suffer any serious consequences. I wondered if his cheating on a high school election was a one time thing but it seems, it was not. I would have thought also that he would have had to answer for his crimes but he seems to have gotten away with it.

      2) That it’s such a small world where we are all interconnected. Phill Swagel, for example, ends up on the small stage (high school election scandal) as the person who wrote the program that counted the ballots, thus witnessing this cheating incident. And 25 years later, he is on the big stage trying to fix what is also a large scale cheating scandal — the sub prime mortgage melt down. And the connection is the youngest school board member at Los Alamitos School District — Mark Abrams — who goes from being this politico darling to a criminal spending 6 years in jail.

      My speculation for the players in the election is really to illustrate that while a high school election may seem like small potatoes, Tom Anthony had no right to be messing with people’s lives, particularly with young people’s futures. As a parent of three children, I think I am angrier than I was as a high school student now that I realize what the consequences are.

      I would also note that I believe that Shelley Sandusky would have had the same successful law career whether or not she attended Stanford or any other college. I did not mean to imply that where she is now is a result of a cheating incident in which she was an innocent victim as well. I fully believe that Shelley would have been accepted to UC Berkley’s Bolt Law School whether or not she went to Stanford and would have ended up exactly where she is today.

      But I don’t believe that Rich fully realized that giving up the ASB President position might have somehow affected his future. Who is to say that Rich would not also be at Stanford if he had been allowed to take the position that was rightfully his? But it seems that he has no regrets so I feel closure on that whereas it has always bothered me that I did not fix it.

      As a parent now, I would have gone balistic if this had happened to my child or to any friend of my child. On the one hand, I felt like Tom Anthony’s underhanded tactics are now finally on the table and that this election 30 years ago was the tip of the iceberg of what he did to people. On the other hand, I feel like I should have done more. I wish I had contacted Rich Morgan’s parents myself to explain what had happened, even when he was reluctant to do so. I also wish I had gone to the Superintendent — I think his name was Bill McCarthy — because he took me under his wing and he was a good man.

      But at the end of the day, it not so weird how these small events ripple through the world with greater consequences? We went to a small and not very prestigious high school. That Mark Abrams would someday play a small role in the Lehman Brothers meltdown that Phill Swagel would have to agonize over as the chief architect of the U.S. economy during this financial crisis is pretty fascinating to me. I’m trying to get Phill to write a book about it and my friend at Harvard Business School publishing is interested in it. I hope Phill can carve out time to write it.

      And, that Tom Anthony may be reviled in certain communities in San Diego but is largely unscathed from the havoc he wreaked. That seems patently unfair. The IT guy lost his job and I would think would have trouble finding employment. Perhaps he felt he would lose his job if he didn’t do what the Superintendent asked but then lost his job for doing it. Doesn’t it strike you as unfair that Tom Anthony walks away with a fat retirement in comparison?

      I recently talked to a retired Assistant Superintendent in San Diego. She’s the aunt of my sister-in-law. She didn’t know Tom Anthony but she knew Rudy Castruida and, frankly, was not impressed by him during her dealings with him. Others that were involved in the Fallbrook district speculate that Rudy may have masterminded the Los Alamitos High School election fraud, among other things, and that Tom Anthony was just the heavy who did was he was told.

      I think the bigger story here is that cheaters do win. That seems to be the case for Tom Anthony. I hoped he would weigh in and believe me, I have tried to get this post in front of him. I emailed it to all the school districts that he worked at, I tweeted it to the the San Diego Patches, and it’s now linked to the same blog, MauraLarkins.com, where I found the information on his recent shenanigans.
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  13. Ann

    WOW, what an incredible story! I applauded you for putting it out there and showing with hypotheticals how these thing affect people’s futures. It is no trivial thing. I would rather be surrounded by ethical people over successful at any cost ones. It is interesting too that by putting it out there you are a bit like a whistle blower and have to deal with the unpleasant consequences and for that I greatly admire your courage.
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  14. It’s the many stories like this that make it so hard to teach kids that cheaters never prosper. I’m really at a loss as to how to respond because I know that this kind of thing has always happened and will continue to happen, regardless of how wrong it is. Take the whole financial meltdown of 2008, for example. The banks screwed over millions of people, we expressed our outrage in no uncertain terms, and years later the majority of said bankers have gone unpunished because they’re too well connected. It’s depressing and demoralizing to know that there’s very little that “the commoners” can do without wholly dedicating their lives to a campaign to end corruption. If we all (voters, politicians and the media)banded together on this common goal, maybe things might change, but I think a shift in the Earth’s axis might be more timely.
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    • Hi Chris,
      I hear you! But I do take solace in the fact that justice comes in weird ways. While it seemed like Tom Anthony got away with all his dirty shanigans, he did get kicked out of his Superintendent position and I’m sure he’s in many legal battles that he has to fund himself. And then there’s always his reputation which is not looking so great.

      I guess the only thing “the commoners” like us can do is to identify it and out them. At least with social media, we have some voice.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Reading for Banned Book WeekMy Profile

  15. Robin

    Wow, what a blast from the past. Some of the names mentioned, and answering I haven’t thought of in years.

  16. Monique

    That was a compelling story and am truly saddened on what they did to you. Good for you doing this blog! Just curious, since you were with school board members, why didn’t you inform them or the superintendent about this situation? or did you?

  17. Los Al Alumna

    Try googling Jean Cross and Paso Robles. You will learn about another Los Al administrator in federal prison. And I heard from good sources back then that she had an affair with Rudy Castruita, so your story really does connect a lot of corrupt people.

  18. Los Al Alumna

    Oh, and I just looked at the BOP website: Mark Abrams was released from prison yesterday. It seems all the corrupt people here were ultimately interested in money, not education!

  19. Hey, Mia!
    When I started reading this blog, the memories came flooding back. I remember thinking (when I heard the rumors swirling about your confrontation with Anthony) wait … Mia Wenjen … yelled at who? The Vice Principal? (:

    I grew up living across the street from the Orr’s, and Mr. Tom Anthony was absolutely a regular guest at their house for dinner’s, brunches, parties in general. I was always sort of “in awe”, I guess you could say, that this person of authority would be dining across the street from my house. Tom and Rudy were always highly accessible to the students and they did seem to have a strong connection with the student body. I am floored by the life he lead and that his dishonesty stayed with him throughout his career.

    I am still inclined to believe that clearly, dishonesty and cheating are no way to prosper! I’m sure that Mr. Tom Anthony would agree with me now that his name (& career) have been dragged through the mud repeatedly. As far as Rudy M goes, I just accidentally came across his seven or eight page, extremely impressive resume that has been posted somewhere on the internet.

    There is only thing I find more disturbing than a man of somewhat of a level of power using said power to commit fraud for his own monetary reasons – and that is the same man, who once led and was looked up to by hoards of student bodies, committing fraud for his own monetary reasons. He could have possibly done great things in this world by changing people’s lives, but he just used us to lift himself higher in rank, only to turn around and do the same thing … over and over.

    Don’t let dirt like this make you relive his dishonesty over and over again. It’s time to let it go. Karma has his address and will take care of everything and make the universe right again.

    Keep blogging!


    Lisa Edmunds LeMasters

    • Hi Lisa,
      Thanks so much for your support! I think it was cathartic to get this out there after 30 years and it was also interesting to see how both Rudy Castruita and Tom Anthony fared. While they climbed their career ladder, I don’t think anyone is going to be writing a picture book biography about how they changed the world LOL. It’s sad, especially regarding Rudy, that he the opportunity to make a big impact representing Mexican Americans but he pursued the wrong path. As for Tom Anthony, it sounds like karma has his number.

      Thanks again!
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