According to the network’s website, “Seth Andrew founded Democracy Prep in 2005 to ensure that every single student will work hard, go to college, and change the world!” The phrase “Change the world!” is on the back of the yellow baseball cap that Mr. Andrew made part of his signature look.
The network’s first school opened in Harlem in 2006. It eventually expanded to 23 schools, in the Bronx; Camden, N.J.; San Antonio; and Las Vegas. Of the network’s 7,000 students, nearly all are students of color and 85 percent qualify for free lunch, according to the network’s website.
Under an agreement with the New York State Board of Regents, the charter network was required to “maintain an ‘escrow account’ that may be accessed only if the school dissolves,” prosecutors said. Mr. Andrew was a signatory to those accounts and had access to them, they said. The money in the accounts totaled a little more than $218,000.
Propelled by the network’s success, Mr. Andrew landed a job in 2013 in the United States Department of Education and later became a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House under President Barack Obama. In the administration, Mr. Andrew helped promote and improve STEM education, a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
While there, Mr. Andrew was still paid by the charter network, according to prosecutors. In November 2016, he left the administration, and by the following January he had formally severed ties with the charter network.
Two years later, Mr. Andrew began tapping into those escrow accounts, prosecutors said. On March 28, 2019, Mr. Andrew walked into a bank and closed two escrow accounts and walked out with two checks totaling more than $142,000, they said.
Later that day Mr. Andrew took one of those checks to open a new account at a different bank, prosecutors said. He told the second bank, which prosecutors did not identify, that he was a “key executive with control of” the charter network. Days later, Mr. Andrew used an A.T.M. to deposit the second check into that account, prosecutors said.
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