Founders of Epic Charter Schools, former CFO arrested on criminal charges


By John Dobberstein, Editor

Agents from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) arrested three people connected to the beleaguered Epic Charter Schools in Tulsa Thursday on a variety of corruption charges, alleging that their actions have cost the state $22 million over several years.

Founders Ben Harris and David Chaney, and former chief financial officer (CFO) Josh Brock were taken into custody around 10 a.m. and transported to the Oklahoma County Detention Center for booking.

OSBI said Harris, Chaney and Brock are facing the following charges of racketeering, embezzlement of state funds, obtaining money by false pretense, conspiracy to commit a felony, violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act, submitting false documents to the state and unlawful proceeds.

The OSBI investigation began in 2013 at the request of then-Gov. Mary Fallin based on a complaint from the State Department of Education (SDE) of dual enrollment. A second request was made in 2019 from a state legislator concerned about misappropriation of state funds that were obligated to Epic Blended Learning Centers.

“This has been a very complex and arduous investigation with many roadblocks causing delays in getting to the truth,” said Ricky Adams, OSBI director, in a statement. “Harris, Chaney and Brock came up with a ‘get rich quick scheme’ that lined their pockets with tax dollars that were to be spent for the benefit of Oklahoma students. The OSBI criminal investigation unraveled the intricate scheme layer by layer, in spite of a lack of cooperation, legal obstacles and delay tactics.”

Through Epic Charter Schools, Epic Youth Services (EYS) and the Student Learning Fund, a complicated criminal enterprise emerged that involved among other things: co-mingling of funds, excessive and unnecessary management fees, the use of Oklahoma tax dollars in California, political influence, concealment of profits, submission of false invoices, and the illegal use of employees. Over the years, the scheme resulted in a cost to the state of Oklahoma in excess of $22 million.

“We are grateful for the assistance of State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd and multiple independent private audit agencies that helped throughout the investigation. I also want to thank District Attorney David Prater for pursing this case on behalf of Oklahoma students, their families and the taxpayers,” Adams said. Harris, Chaney and Brock have a $250,000 bond.

Epic Charter Schools had recently been responding is responding to an Oklahoma State Department of Education investigation that found a number of issues persisting with the online public education option.

The OSDE probe uncovered "significant problems," including dubious attendance data that may have resulted in $780,000 in improperly obtained state funds and the improper disbursal of more than $8.5 million in bonuses to school administrators. The investigation was prompted by a complaint made against Epic in December 2021 by a former member of Epic’s governing board, Community Strategies.

You can read the investigative report about Epic Charter Schools here

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