Charter school network co-founder sentenced to state prison for fraud

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The co-founder of a charter school network that siphoned millions in public funds into their own pockets was sentenced Friday to four years in state prison.

Jason Schrock, 46, was charged along with A3 Education CEO and President Sean McManus and nine other defendants for running what prosecutors have called “one of the nation’s largest fraud schemes targeting taxpayer dollars intended for primary education.”

Prosecutors say McManus and Schrock directed subordinates to open up 19 “A3 charter schools” in San Diego County and elsewhere across the state, and collected state funds by alleging students were enrolled in programs run by the schools.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said that the men paid for student information and used the info to enroll children in summer school programs at their online campuses. Prosecutors say some parents were unaware their children were enrolled in a charter school at all.

The defendants then took measures to inflate the amount of money the state paid the charter schools by falsifying documentation, which included backdating documents to indicate that students were enrolled in the charter schools for longer than they were or switching students between different A3 schools to increase funding per student or per school beyond legal limits, prosecutors said.

The schools earned as much as $4,000 per student despite not providing full educational services, with the defendants transferring millions of those funds to private companies they owned, according to the DA’s office.

Along with Schrock’s prison sentence, San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Link ordered that he and McManus, 48, pay a combined $37.5 million in fines. The DA’s Office says that the fines imposed through the case “will be earmarked and exclusively dedicated to programs that directly serve the needs of kindergarten through 12th grade students in San Diego County.”

Schrock and McManus, who were charged in a 235-page grand jury indictment in 2019, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy charges. The DA’s Office says their nine co-defendants have also pleaded guilty. McManus is set for sentencing Feb. 22, 2022.

In addition to the fines, $14 million in restitution has been ordered paid to victims in kindergarten through 12th grade, and the money will be held in trust and administered by the San Diego Foundation. More than $90 million in additional restitution will go to the state.

“These defendants engaged in a systematic public corruption scheme on the backs of students, their parents and the public that over time diverted millions of taxpayer dollars into their own pockets,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Our team’s successful prosecution of this case held the defendants accountable for widespread misappropriation of public funds that extended across the state. Now, a great deal of those stolen funds will be funneled back into supporting students. Children are our future and these funds come at a perfect time to help them recover and succeed.”

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