Ex-Obama White House adviser pleads guilty to $ 218,000 school fraud

NEW YORK (AP) – The founder of a national charter school network that once served as an adviser to the White House under former President Barack Obama pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of stealing more than $ 200,000 from the network.

Seth Andrew, 42, a founder of Democracy Prep, filed the plea in Manhattan’s federal court to transfer fraud, admitting that he moved money in 2019 from charter schools’ networks to other bank accounts without permission.

“I’m really sorry 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 have immense remorse for the impact it has had on schools, alumni and my own family.”

In 2005, Andrew was a founder of Democracy Prep when it started in New York City. After its methods helped raise test scores for economically challenged children in Harlem, it expanded across the United States.

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

In court documents, authorities said Andrew stole $ 218,000 from the schools he helped create and then used the money to obtain the best interest rate his bank offered on a $ 2 million mortgage on a Manhattan apartment he bought. together with his spouse.

Andrew admitted on Friday that he was trying to make it look as if the money he took from the schools came from a civilian organization he controls, as he moved money from the schools’ network accounts to his personal accounts and later to the nonprofit organization’s account. from March to October. 2019. He told bank employees that he had permission to transfer the Democracy Prep funds when he had not.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Andrew, a former White House adviser, today admitted to devising a plan to steal from the same schools he helped create.”

He added: “Andrew now risks being 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 for more than two decades, Andrew “has worked tirelessly to expand educational, democratic, and technological capabilities to liberal communities around the world.”

‚ÄúSeth’s life has always been motivated by a bourgeois mission, and he deeply regrets his past mistakes. He has courageously taken responsibility for them, “said the lawyer. “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 has agreed to pay $ 218,000 in refunds to the Charter School Network. The sentencing was scheduled for April 14, when he risks up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors and defense attorneys in a written appeal agreement agreed that a sentence of 21 to 27 months in prison was appropriate.

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