- Charter network Concept Schools, its contractors, and “many of its privately run, taxpayer-financed charter schools across the Midwest" allegedly "enaged in a scheme to defraud a federal program," the Chicago Sun Times reports.
- The fraud may go back as far as 2007, and also involves what might be an intentional plan to defraud the federal government’s E-Rate program — which is aimed at proving equal access to high-speed Internet in U.S. schools — by violating its “fair and open competitive bidding” rules.
- The charter network in question operates a reported 30 schools in Illinois and has a presence in five other states, as well.
“The newly obtained search-warrant applications provide the first glimpse of what investigators suspected — that Concept violated the E-Rate program’s 'fair and open competitive bidding 'rules,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “The documents also identify Concept executives and contractors who have come under scrutiny.”
According to Geoffrey Wood, an agent tasked with investigatingthe case on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, "By giving work to related vendors, Concept was able to direct large portions of E-Rate program money away from the charter schools and the E-Rate program and enrich those particular vendors."
Core Group Inc. received $2.8 million dollars worth of E-Rate funding was funneled to a single company, Core Group Inc. This isn’t the first time that Concept Schools have come under fire for wrongdoing. Last year, the Associated Press revealed that “accounts of sex games, test tampering and other potentially criminal misdeeds” had happened at one Concept school, prompting the Ohio State Board of Ed to investigate.
Concept Schools are also alleged to be associated with the influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric and Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen, who heads a religious and social movement, commonly referred to as “Hizmet,” Turkish for “the service.”
In Florida, a similar scandal involving involving the misuse of public funds is unfolding, with charter schools alleged to have misused a total od $70 million dollars after a controversial state Legislature decision granted charters money “for capital expenses — which can include ‘construction costs, rent payments, buses and even property insurance,’” the Miami Herald reported.