Federal prosecutors in St. Louis say the former head of a now-defunct St. Louis-area charter school pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a $2.4 million fraud scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says 44-year-old Michael Malone of St. Louis pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud. Malone appeared today before U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig, who has scheduled a November 30 sentencing date.
Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen says Malone served as the headmaster of St. Louis College Prep Charter School (SLCP) from 2011 to 2018.
Malone admits he falsely inflated student attendance numbers to state officials. Federal prosecutors say he got away with it for years, and that he took advantage of Missouri taxpayers.
SLCP received its state funding through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), based upon its reported student attendance. Federal prosecutors say that for four of the seven school years, Malone reported students’ average daily attendance in excess of SLCP’s actual enrollment.
For example, federal prosecutors say that during the 2013-2014 school year, Malone reported average daily attendance of 220, when actual enrollment of SLCP was 191 students.
“What the former headmaster did through his deception, repeatedly over many years, was take advantage of the Missouri taxpayers, while obtaining an unfair advantage over the St. Louis Public Schools and other area charter schools,” Jensen says, in a written statement. “This was not a mistake. Evidence proved Michael Malone’s actions were intentional, and unfortunately he got away with it for years.”
FBI St. Louis Division Special Agent in Charge Richard Quinn says Malone “robbed students at other public and charter schools of additional resources they should have received.”
The FBI investigated the case, with the assistance and cooperation of DESE and the Missouri State Auditor’s office.
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