Oklahoma County prosecutors charged Epic Charter School founder David Chaney, Ben Harris, and former Chief Financial Officer Josh Brock on Thursday with eleven felony counts including racketeering, embezzlement, and presenting false claims to the state.
State Auditor Cindy Byrd called the alleged scheme “the largest abuse of taxpayer funds in the history of this state.”
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation began its investigation into Epic in 2013, after Chaney and Harris founded the statewide virtual charter school in 2010.
“This has been a very complex and arduous investigation with many roadblocks causing delays in getting to the truth,” said Ricky Adams, OSBI Director. “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 suspects are accused, in part, of funneling millions in state education funding from Epic Charter School to Epic Youth Services, a private management company. A private account, called the Student Learning Fund, was the destination for about $140 million in public money between 2015 – 2021.
“Ben Harris and David Chaney used the student learning fund as a line of credit to provide cash flow to their business,” Byrd said. The suspects used the funds for personal expenses, donations to politicians, and media consultants.
The Epic School Board voted to sever ties with Epic Youth Services last year.
Board Chair Paul Campbell, who started the same month as the vote to part ways with EYS, issued a statement Thursday rejecting Harris and Chaney’s former association with Epic Charter Schools.
“This past year has been tumultuous as our newly created board and new executive leadership has worked diligently to deconstruct ten years of bad policies by the former management company,” Campbell said.