OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced the arrests of the founders and former CFO of Epic Charter Schools on Thursday.
OSBI took founders Ben Harris and David Chaney and former CFO Josh Brock into custody around 10 a.m. All three men are facing the following charges:
- Embezzlement of State Funds
- Obtaining Money by False Pretense
- Conspiracy to Commit a Felony
- Violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act
- Submitting False Documents to the State
- Unlawful Proceeds
OSBI says their investigation began in 2013 after a dual enrollment complaint from the State Department of Education. A second request for an investigation came in 2019 in regards to accusations of misappropriation of state funds obligated to Epic Blended Learning Centers.
The virtual school district has already been the target of state investigation due to the recent misuse of state funds.
“This has been a very complex and arduous investigation with many roadblocks causing delays in getting to the truth,” said Ricky Adams, OSBI Director. “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.”
OSBI says their investigators found a complicated criminal enterprise that involved among other things: co-mingling of funds, excessive and unnecessary management fees, the use of Oklahoma tax dollars in California, political influence, concealment of profits, submission of false invoices, and the illegal use of employees. The "scheme" cost the state of Oklahoma in excess of $22 million.
“We are grateful for the assistance of State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd and multiple independent private audit agencies that helped throughout the investigation. I also want to thank District Attorney David Prater for pursuing this case on behalf of Oklahoma students, their families and the taxpayers,” Adams.
Harris, Chaney and Brock have a $250,000 bond.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister released the following statement after the arrests:
"The money that Epic’s founders took was taxpayer dollars for children’s learning. They not only robbed the children of Epic but the children of Oklahoma. It is unconscionable that the alleged deceitfulness of the school’s founders made them multimillionaires at the expense of taxpayers. This fraud was allowed to happen because of cracks in state law that still exist today. It is indisputable that they were able to exploit open and obvious weaknesses in the law for their own personal gain. This saga also highlights why there is no room for a for-profit management school in public education. Epic’s management turned the purpose of education on its head and incentivized cash over kids."
Epic released a statement following the arrests announced Thursday saying they'd legally severed ties with its founders more than a year ago.
— Epic Charter Schools (@EpicCharter) June 23, 2022
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