Former Obama Administration Adviser Pleads Guilty in $218,000 Theft Scheme

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Seth Andrew, 42, pleaded blameworthy to charges that helium had devised a strategy to bargain from a web of charter schools helium founded. He faces up to 20 years successful prison.

Seth Andrew had been a young and ambitious pedagogue  erstwhile   helium  founded Democracy Prep Public Schools.
Credit...Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Jan. 14, 2022, 6:16 p.m. ET

A erstwhile elder advisor successful the Obama medication pleaded blameworthy connected Friday to charges that helium had orchestrated a strategy to bargain much than $200,000 from a web of charter schools that helium founded, prosecutors said.

The erstwhile adviser, Seth Andrew, 42, pleaded blameworthy to 1 number of ligament fraud and volition look up to 20 years successful situation erstwhile helium is sentenced connected April 14, prosecutors said. He has besides agreed to wage restitution to the charter schools helium founded, Democracy Prep Public Schools, prosecutors said.

Mr. Andrew was charged past April with stealing $218,000 from the network, which teaches mostly low-income students of colour successful New York and different states. Prosecutors said past twelvemonth that helium had utilized the wealth to get a little involvement complaint connected a owe for a $2 cardinal flat successful Manhattan.

“Seth Andrew, a erstwhile White House adviser, admitted contiguous to devising a strategy to bargain from the precise aforesaid schools helium helped create,” Damian Williams, the U.S. lawyer for the Southern District of New York, said successful a statement connected Friday. “Andrew present faces clip successful national situation for abusing his presumption and robbing those helium promised to help.”

Mr. Andrew’s lawyers, Tim Doherty and Edward Kim, said that their lawsuit had, for much than 2 decades, “worked tirelessly to grow educational, antiauthoritarian and technological accidental to disenfranchised communities astir the world.”

“Seth’s beingness has ever been motivated by a civic ngo and helium profoundly regrets his past mistakes,” Mr. Doherty and Mr. Kim said successful an email. “He has, with courage, accepted work for them. With the assistance and enactment of his household and loved ones, Seth looks guardant to deepening his committedness to work and innovation successful the adjacent section of his life.”

Mr. Andrew had been a young and ambitious pedagogue erstwhile helium founded Democracy Prep successful 2005.

He had been inspired, he said, by the acquisition strategy helium had experienced arsenic a teacher successful South Korea. Democracy Prep opened its archetypal schoolhouse successful Harlem successful 2006 and has expanded since then. It operates 24 schools and a programme successful New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Nevada and Texas, educating 7,100 students, according to its website.

Propelled by the network’s success, Mr. Andrew went to enactment for the U.S. Department of Education successful 2013 and aboriginal became a elder advisor successful the Office of Educational Technology astatine the White House nether President Barack Obama. In the administration, Mr. Andrew worked connected acquisition programs focused connected science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In November 2016, helium near the administration, and by the pursuing January helium had severed ties with the charter network. But helium inactive had entree to schoolhouse slope accounts, prosecutors said.

Under an statement with the New York State Board of Regents, the charter web had been required to “maintain an ‘escrow account’ that whitethorn beryllium accessed lone if the schoolhouse dissolves,” prosecutors said. Mr. Andrew was a signatory to those accounts and had entree to them, they said. The wealth successful the accounts totaled a small much than $218,000.

On March 28, 2019, Mr. Andrew walked into a slope and closed 2 escrow accounts and walked retired with 2 checks totaling much than $142,000, prosecutors said.

Later that day, helium took 1 of those checks to unfastened a caller relationship astatine a antithetic bank, prosecutors said. He told the 2nd slope that helium was a “key enforcement with power of” the charter network, which was not true, prosecutors said. Days later, helium utilized an A.T.M. to deposit the 2nd cheque into that account, prosecutors said.

The slope had offered customers a reduced involvement complaint connected their owe “for each $250,000 connected deposit, up to a full of $1 million,” prosecutors said. Using the $142,000 from the charter schools enabled Mr. Andrew to person a simplification successful the involvement complaint of 0.5 percent points, they said.

In August 2019, Mr. Andrew and his wife, who was not charged, bought a Manhattan flat for astir $2.4 million, prosecutors said. To marque the purchase, they had obtained a owe of astir $1.8 million, taking afloat vantage of the promotion the slope had offered for favorable involvement rates, prosecutors said.

In a connection connected Friday, Democracy Prep said: “We are gladsome that this bittersweet section is implicit and thankful to the authorities for their hard enactment connected this case.”

In a missive to parents past year, Natasha Trivers, the main enforcement of Democracy Prep Public Schools, said that though the schools had not been materially affected by the transgression Mr. Andrew had been accused of, it was a stark departure from Democracy Prep’s values.

“His alleged actions are a profound betrayal of each that we basal for and to you and your children, the scholars and families that we serve,” Ms. Trivers wrote.

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

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