Brazilian Mayor on the run Accused of Stealing Funds, Governing via WhatsApp

Brazilian Police
An international arrest warrant will be issued for the 25-year-old mayor if she does not turn herself in to authorities by Tuesday. File Photo by Celso Pupo/Shutterstock

BOM JARDIM, Brazil, Aug. 31 (UPI) — A 25-year-old mayor in Brazil is on the run after being accused of stealing education funds and governing her town remotely through the WhatsApp messaging application.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Lidiane Leite, 25, and her boyfriend, Beto Rocha, who served as her main adviser. An international arrest warrant will be issued if Leite does not turn herself in to authorities by Tuesday.

Rocha was banned from running for mayor in 2012 due to corruption allegations, and Leite stepped in as his replacement.

She won the election for mayor in the town of Bom Jardim in Maranhao, one of Brazil’s poorest states.

Leite lived in the state capital of Sao Luis, about 170 miles away, and her only connection to Bom Jardim was through daily WhatsApp messages to her cabinet, prosecutors said.

She went on the run after she was mentioned in a federal investigation about the misuse of state education funds. About $4 million in funds for Bom Jardim’s schools are missing. The town’s school system collapsed and teachers are no longer being paid.

“She was too young and and inexperienced when she took office,” her lawyer, Carlos Barros, said. “She lacked confidence and delegated many tasks to Mr. Rocha.”

Leite’s former deputy has been designated as the new mayor of Bom Jardim and has promised to launch a full investigation.

Leite reportedly boasted about living a lavish lifestyle on social media after she became mayor of the town.

“Before I was mayor I was poor, and had a Land Rover,” she wrote on Instagram, according to Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. “Now I’m in a Toyota SW4. I should have bought a better car, because thanks to God money is no longer a problem.”

“I can buy whatever I want, spend it how I like,” she reportedly added.


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