NEW YORK (AP) — The founder of the national charter school network, who once served as a White House Counsel to former President Barack Obama, pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he stole more than $200,000 from the network.
Seth Andrew, 42, the founder of Democracy Prep, filed a wire fraud lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan after admitting he transferred money from a network of charter schools to other bank accounts without permission in 2019.
“I am truly sorry for what I did,” an emotional Andrew, his voice cracking, told Judge John P. Cronan. “What I did was wrong and I deeply regret my actions. And as I stand before you today, I deeply repent of the impact this has had on schools, alumni, and my own family.”
In 2005, Andrew was the founder of Democracy Prep when it started in New York. After his methods helped boost test scores for economically disadvantaged children in Harlem, he spread throughout the United States.
In the spring of 2013, Andrew left his position as superintendent in his school network to work for the US Department of Education and as a senior adviser to the Office of Educational Technology at the White House. The work lasted until November 2016.
Authorities said in court documents that Andrew stole $218,000 from the schools he helped create and then used the money to get the best interest rate his bank offered on a $2 million Manhattan apartment mortgage he bought with by his wife.
On Friday, Andrew admitted he tried to make it look like the money he was taking from schools came from a civic organization he controlled when he transferred money from school network accounts to his personal accounts and then to a non-profit account from March to October 2019 2019. He told the bank staff that he had permission to transfer funds to prepare for democracy, although he did not.
In a press release, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, “Andrew, a former White House adviser, admitted today to developing a theft scheme from the very schools he helped create.”
He added: “Andrew now faces a term in federal prison for abusing his position and robbing those he promised to help.”
Defense attorneys Tim Doherty and Edward Kim said in a statement that Andrew has “worked tirelessly to expand educational, democratic and technological opportunities for disenfranchised communities around the world” for more than two decades.
“Seth’s life has always been motivated by the civic mission and he deeply regrets his past mistakes. He courageously took responsibility for them,” the lawyer said. “With the help and support of his family and loved ones, Seth hopes to deepen 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. The sentence was set for April 14, when he faces up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors and lawyers agreed in a written plea agreement that a sentence of 21 to 27 months in prison was appropriate.