Corruption At The Charter School

Robin Lyons' Blog Post #123Charter schools are funded with tax-payer money but managed privately.

They have more flexibility with curriculum, budget, and staffing. Charter Schools are NOT exempt from standard accounting practices.

BLOG POST #123: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific criminal case about an Executive Director of a Charter School.

Stealing From The Most Vulnerable

It was the Executive Director’s frequent deposits to purchase a total of $760,000 in life insurance annuities from a financial security company that eventually raised red flags at the company, and they reported the suspicious activity to the FBI, prompting an investigation.

The Executive Director was unable to explain how she was able to purchase the annuities. Her personal income couldn’t justify the large amount.

The state revoked the school’s charter and ordered the school to close. Approximately 140 elementary-aged disadvantaged children were attending the charter school at the time it closed the doors permanently.

The Outcome Could Have Been Much Worse

Technically, what she did was money laundering which would have given her a longer sentence. Instead, she was charged with two counts of embezzling federal property. One count for the USDA, Department of Agriculture money (school lunch program) and one count for the DOE, Department of Education money (Title I, Title II, and IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

At her trial, evidence showed from 2007 – 2013, she transferred $1.56 million in federal government funds from the school’s bank account to shell companies she created and controlled.

She was supposed to help children who were needy children, who had a lot to gain from a good education,” the U.S. Judge said just before pronouncing her sentence.

Her Career In Education Is Over

The former Executive Director was found guilty on both embezzlement charges and was sentenced to 42 months in a federal prison and ordered to pay over $1.5 million in restitution.

The court ordered her to pay $954,662.61 to the USDA and $607,271.58 to the DOE. And she was ordered to forfeit over $750,000 in life insurance annuities as well as her share in a house she owned.

Worth mentioning: The former Executive Director filed an appeal contending that the government failed to show the $1.56 million she embezzled belonged to the federal government. She argued that, because the money from state and federal sources was commingled in one undifferentiated account, the government could not show that the money she took was federal, as opposed to purely state, money. Her appeal was denied.

What do you think about this case? Your relevant comments about this post or any of the other posts are always welcome on the website.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for spending part of your day or evening reading this post and for caring about children!

-Robin

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