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4 charged with defrauding $44.6 million from Indiana Department of Education

4 charged with defrauding Indiana Department of Education

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Fraud charges have been filed against four people who ran online charter schools in Indiana.

Federal investigators accused them of inflating enrollment numbers to defraud the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) out of nearly $45 million.

Funding from the IDOE is in part based upon enrollment numbers provided by charter schools. From 2016 to at least 2018, the federal indictment alleges they falsely registered over 4,500 students.

The FBI said a tip from the Indiana State Board of Accounts set this investigation in motion. The bureau combed through hundreds of thousands of documents, analyzed several hundred bank accounts, and did hundreds of interviews to get to this point.

“Many of which included interviews of fraudulently enrolled students, or their parents, including one particular instance with an interview of a student’s parents who was enrolled after that student had already passed away,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Herbert Stapleton.

Tom Stoughton Sr, Phillip Holden, Percy Clark, and Christopher King are the ones charged in the indictment.

Stoughton is facing the most charges, which include one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, and 57 counts of money laundering.

Clark is facing one count of conspiracy, 16 counts of wire fraud, and 11 counts of money laundering.

Holden is facing one count of conspiracy and 16 counts of wire fraud.

King has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in this case.

The charges all hinge on their roles at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways, which are both online charter schools.

They allegedly illegally inflated their enrollment in several different ways. In one instance, teachers at the schools tried to unenroll students who had not been attending.

“Stoughton and his co-conspirators allegedly ordered that those students be re-enrolled so they would still be counted on count day,” said Zachary Myers, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

Myers broke down how Stoughton allegedly spent the money.

“Purchases of vehicles, boats, coins, as well as payment of private school tuition,” Myers said. “That’s just a portion of the amount of money alleged in the indictment.”

If convicted, the government can begin seizing assets to recoup the roughly $45 million that was defrauded from the Indiana Department of Education.

All four are facing 10-20 years in federal prison for each count they are facing.