Oklahoma charter school execs arrested in alleged embezzlement scheme
By SEAN MURPHY
Associated Press Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The founders and former chief financial officer of Epic Charter Schools were arrested Thursday and are facing felony criminal charges alleging they diverted millions of taxpayer dollars in a complicated scheme that involved excessive management fees, state investigators said.
Epic co-founders Ben Harris, 46, and David Chaney, 43, along with the school's former CFO Josh Brock, 40, were arrested Thursday and taken to the Oklahoma County Detention Center for booking, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a press release.
All three are facing charges of racketeering, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretense, conspiracy to commit a felony, violation of the, Computer Crimes Act, submitting false documents to the state and unlawful proceeds, the OSBI said. Bond for three men was listed as $250,000.
Jail and court records don't indicate the name of an attorney who could speak on their behalf. Harris and Chaney have previously denied any wrongdoing.
The arrests follow a yearslong OSBI investigation that begin in 2013 at the request of then-Gov. Mary Fallin.
“This has been a very complex and arduous investigation with many roadblocks causing delays in getting to the truth,” OSBI Director Ricky Adams said in a statement. “Harris, Chaney and Brock came up with a ‘get rich quick scheme’ that lined their pockets with tax dollars that were to be spent for the benefit of Oklahoma students. The OSBI criminal investigation unraveled the intricate scheme layer by layer, in spite of a lack of cooperation, legal obstacles and delay tactics.”
Both state and federal officials have been investigating the school for allegedly embezzling millions in state funds by illegally inflating student enrollment counts. Among the biggest concerns of state investigators and a grand jury is Epic Youth Services, a management company owned by Chaney and Harris, which has received a 10% management fee paid for by public funds.
Epic Charter schools severed ties with the Epic Youth Services, along with Chaney and Harris, last year.