A 57-year-old woman plead guilty to misappropriating and embezzling $2.5 million in public education funds. The woman was the founder of the Celebrity Educational Group, which was a network of charter schools in Los Angeles, California. She worked as its CEO until April 2015. Most of the money was used to buy a sound stage in Ohio among other purchases. A portion of the funds were provided by the Department of Education.
The woman also used several credit cards issued to Celebrity Educational Group to buy items for herself. Those items included airfare to see Barack Obama's inauguration and customized bicycles. According to the plea agreement reached in the case, she did not reimburse any of the money spent using the group's credit cards. The defendant is expected to be sentenced in May, and she could spend up to five years in prison.
This is in addition to possible restitution of up to $250,000 and giving up all items purchased with the public funds. In an agreement with the government, Celebrity Educational Group also agreed to take measures to ensure that this type of incident doesn't happen again. The organization is now known as ISANA Academies, and it acknowledged the woman's misdeeds in a June 2017 deal.
The act of misappropriating funds is generally considered to be a serious crime. It could result in a person spending time in prison as well as paying fines or restitution. An attorney may be able to take steps to help a person avoid some or all penalties. He or she may use financial records to show that all purchases were accounted for accurately. Legal counsel may also show that any purchases made using public funds were reimbursed by a defendant in a timely manner.