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Former White House adviser pleads guilty in $218,000 school scam

The founder of a national charter school network who once served as a White House adviser under President Barack Obama has pleaded guilty to a charge alleging he stole more than $200,000 from the network

NEW YORK — The founder of a nationwide network of charter schools who once served as a White House adviser under President Barack Obama pleaded guilty Friday to a charge alleging he stole more than $200,000 from the network.

Seth Andrew, 42, founder of Democracy Prep, pleaded in Manhattan federal court to wire fraud, admitting he transferred money in 2019 from the charter school network to other bank accounts without authorization .

“I’m so sorry for what I did,” an emotional Andrew told Judge John P. Cronan in a broken voice. “What I did was wrong and I deeply regret my actions.”

“And, as I stand before you today, I feel tremendous remorse for the impact this has had on schools, alumni and my own family,” he added.

In 2005, Andrew was one of the founders of Democracy Prep when it started in New York. After his methods helped increase test scores for economically disadvantaged children in Harlem, he expanded across the United States.

In the spring of 2013, Andrew left his role as superintendent in his network of schools to work at the United States Department of Education and as a senior adviser to the Office of Educational Technology at the White House. The work lasted until November 2016.

In court documents, authorities say Andrew stole $218,000 from schools he helped set up, then used the money to get the best interest rate his bank was offering on a mortgage for a $2 million apartment in Manhattan that he had bought with his wife.

Andrew admitted on Friday that he tried to make it appear that the money he withdrew from the schools came from a civic organization he controlled as he transferred money from the schools network accounts to his personal accounts, then to the non-profit account from March to October. 2019.

He said he told bank employees he had permission to transfer the Democracy Prep funds when he did not.

In a statement, US Attorney Damian Williams said: ‘Andrew, a former White House adviser, today admitted to having devised a scheme to steal from the same schools he helped create.

He added: “Andrew now faces federal prison time for abusing his position and stealing from those he promised to help.”

Defense attorneys Tim Doherty and Edward Kim said in a statement that Andrew for more than two decades “has worked tirelessly to expand educational, democratic and technological opportunities to disenfranchised communities around the world.”

“Seth’s life has always been driven by a civic mission and he deeply regrets his past mistakes. He has courageously accepted responsibility for them,” the attorney said. “With the help and support of his family and loved ones, Seth looks forward to deepening his commitment to service and innovation in the next chapter of his life.”

Andrew agreed to pay $218,000 in restitution to the Charter School Network. Sentencing was scheduled for April 14, when he faces up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed in a written plea agreement that a sentence of between 21 and 27 months jail time was appropriate.

ABC News

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