Charged with fraud at A3 charter school sentenced to probation and fined $ 300,000
Robert Williams, an accountant indicted in a massive charter school program that defrauded the state of tens of millions of dollars, was sentenced to three years probation and $ 300,000 in fines by the San Superior Court. Diego Friday.
Williams, 67, pleaded guilty in August to one count of altering or falsifying company records with intent to defraud. He is free on his own commitment since his indictment in 2019.
Thomas Avdeef, an attorney representing Williams, declined to comment on Friday afternoon.
Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Williams was cooperating with investigators and would continue to do so after conviction. He also paid half of his $ 300,000 fine on Friday, with the remainder due on May 1.
His three years of probation will be unsupervised.
“We are happy to have recovered additional funds in the amount of $ 300,000 and happy that he has cooperated not only in the prosecutions against him but also against others,” Schorr said after the conviction on Friday.
Williams, 67, was among 11 defendants indicted in 2019 for allegedly participating in what has been called one of the nation’s biggest fraud schemes.
San Diego County prosecutors said the defendants stole $ 400 million for K-12 education from taxpayers through the now defunct A3 charter school network, then used the money to real estate and other businesses.
Investigators said they recovered more than $ 220 million.
Williams was the eighth defendant to be sentenced, Schorr said. Of the three remaining defendants, one is awaiting conviction and the prosecution of two is pending.
Among the defendants who have pleaded guilty are the ringleaders of the scheme, an Australian, Sean McManus, and his business partner in Southern California, Jason Schrock. The two founded the A3 Charter Schools, a network of 19 online schools across California that defrauded the state, according to the indictment.
Three A3 schools were located in San Diego County.
Using information about students often obtained from sports clubs and private schools, the co-conspirators “signed up” and demanded public funding for thousands of involuntary students, prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, Williams, McManus, Schrock and a small number of associates were listed as president, CEO, CFO, secretary, school administrator or board members of the various A3 schools. For one school, they listed two people as officers without their knowledge, prosecutors said.
The defendants used personal addresses or the Newport Beach address of an accounting firm owned by Williams on documents to open bank accounts and submit annual returns, according to the indictment.
Many schools also shared the same auditor, who submitted audits showing that schools were complying with expense and attendance accounting rules, according to the indictment.
Williams reportedly informed Schrock when an auditor noticed red flags, such as missing board approvals for a contract between A3 and another charter school that Schrock and McManus were overseeing, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said online charter schools provided little or no service to most of the hundreds of “enrolled” students.