Epic co-founders, former CFO charged with racketeering, embezzlement – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 2022-06-23 22:52:23 –

Oklahoma City (Free press) — The founder of Epic Charter School, arrested Thursday, transferred millions of dollars to the company’s credit card. It was used to donate political campaigns, fund lobbyists, and pay personal expenses such as vacations. Court documents.

After years of investigation into alleged embezzlement of taxpayer funds, court records show that the co-founder of the state’s largest online school was arrested Thursday, along with a long-time chief financial officer.

On Thursday morning, David Chaney (43), Ben Harris (46) and Josh Brock (40) (feature collage LR mugshot) were booked at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. Each has been charged with swaying, embezzlement, obtaining money by camouflage, conspiracy to commit a felony, violating the Oklahoma Computer Criminal Code, submitting false documents to the state, and illegal income.

Investigators said the man used an online charter school and a commercial company, Epic Youth Services, to run a complex criminal enterprise.

According to OSBI, the plan cost the state more than $ 22 million.

Costs include mixing funds, excessive and unnecessary administrative costs, the use of Oklahoma taxes in California, political impact, concealment of profits, false invoices, and illegal use of employees. It will be.

This is an invoice filed Thursday by David Prater, a lawyer in the Oklahoma County district.

Epic-Charging-Documents-June 23, 2022

Costs include mixing funds, excessive and unnecessary administrative costs, the use of Oklahoma taxes in California, political impact, concealment of profits, false invoices, and illegal use of employees. It will be.

Agents claim that the Learning Fund, one of the school’s largest recruiting tools, was used to hide illegal purchases. For the Learning Fund, Epic will make virtual accounts available to each student for at least $ 1,000 each year. Parents can allocate these amounts to curriculum, laptops and extracurricular activities.

Parents do not receive money directly. Instead, they ask Epic to make a purchase, and the school sends the money to EpicYouth Services. EpicYouthServices pays the vendor.

Chaney and Harris used different bank accounts to purchase learning funds. Investigators found that Chainy and Harris did not return the dollars of unused learning funds.

The account received approximately $ 145 million between 2015 and 2021. Over 50 times, Chainy, Harris and Brock have transferred public funds from their learning fund accounts to Epic Youth Services’ private bank accounts and used them to pay lobbying companies. Capital Gains, a lobbying company run by Harris’ longtime friend Robert Stem, has been paid over $ 500,000.

After several audits, state auditor and inspector Cindy Bird, whose office helped with the criminal investigation, said more than $ 55 million in public funds could have been paid to the founders. rice field. The exact amount will not be known until the Internal Revenue Service completes its own investigation.

EpicAudit 70
State auditor and inspector Cindy Bird assisted in criminal investigations against Epic’s co-founders and financial practices after several audits. She was photographed at a press conference on October 1, 2020, where she published her findings from one of those surveys. (Whitney Brian / Oklahoma Watch)

Bird said at a press conference at the Capitol that Epic used the same management and business structure as it did in Oklahoma to conceal expenses at the California school Oxford Prep.

“Epic Youth Services received thousands of dollars in Oxford Prep consulting fees between 2013 and 2016,” Bird said. “When Harris, Channie and Brock created this complex scheme, it was about connecting nonprofits and commercial organizations to make money, much like what was done in Oklahoma.”

Bird, running for re-election in Tuesday’s primary, said he expressed public and private concerns about Epic’s business practices under the founder and former CFO. She has funded more than $ 200,000 in public relations, lobbying and legal services to distract questions about political contributions to various candidates in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and school operations. I explained in detail.

IMG 8689
The affidavit contains a list of political contributions made between 2014 and 2020 by Ben Harris, David Chaney and Josh Brock.

“The State Auditor’s Office fought to ensure that this situation was not wiped out under the rug, even when Harris and Channy silenced investigations and findings and used taxes to damage credit. I’ve been there, “Bird said.

Political contributions, some paid using the Student Learning Fund credit card, continued during the 2020 election cycle. This time, much of the money was given to the political action committee, which spends independently to support or oppose the candidate, Bird said. Among the targeted candidates for these Dark Money groups was Senator Ron Sharp, who was seeking an Epic investigation in 2019. Sharp lost his reelection bid.

The Affidavit Channie said he used American Express to donate $ 100,000 to the Oklahoma Public Affairs Council, a think tank that supports Oklahoma City-based school selection in 2019 and 2020. Epic Youth Services has also donated more than $ 55,000 to the Oklahoma State Parliament. The Oklahoma Parliament later submitted a brief explanation to a friend of the court in a proceeding in support of Epic’s legal position to maintain secret spending. Student Learning Fund..

Bird called embezzlement “the greatest abuse of taxpayer funds in the history of the state.”

“Government is not a private company,” she said. “This is the management of the service, which means that receiving and spending money must be done in accordance with the law, accountability and transparency.”

EpicBoard50Penn 86 1
Epic Charter School co-founders Ben Harris (left) and David Channy (right) are arrested for swaying, embezzlement, disguising money, felony plots, Oklahoma computer criminal law violations, and fake document submissions. , Was charged. State and illegal income. The pair will be seen at the Board of Education on January 15, 2020. (Whitney Brian / Oklahoma Watch)

According to the affidavit, Epic Youth Services continued to embezzle funds even after the audit began. The company also made regular repayments, but the repayments were more than $ 1 million less than the amount received.

Agents claim that one of Chainy’s credit cards used to purchase student learning funds was also used to pay for vacations and personal purchases. And it has accumulated points worth nearly $ 40,000.

The OSBI investigation, which began in 2013 at the request of Governor Mary Fallin, accelerated in 2019 when investigators provided two investigation warrants to collect evidence.

Later that year, Governor Kevin Stitt called for a school audit. According to a survey released in 2020, more than $ 125 million of school revenue was directed to Harris and Channey’s company, Epic Youth Services, from 2015 to 2020. The two founded the school in 2011.

Last year, Epic broke off its relationship with its co-founder, its company, and Brock.

Paul Campbell, chairman of the board of directors of Epic since 2021, said Thursday that he was not surprised by the arrest. “We leave that role to the judicial system,” he said.

See all coverage of our Epic Charter School dating back to 2016 here..

Published in partnership with Oklahoma Watch Under a Creative Commons license.. Free Press publishes this report as a collaborative effort to best cover state issues that affect its readers.

Last updated: June 23, 2022 9:57 pm Brett Dickerson – Editor

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