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Charter school operator sent to prison for taking funds earmarked for start-up school
Columbus – A Columbus woman who took $88,750 earmarked to start a charter school in Powell was sentenced to three years in prison today by Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Everett H. Krueger.
Wendy Marshall, 39, had pleaded guilty to personal use of state funds in October and agreed to make restitution in exchange for some charges being dropped. Marshall pleaded guilty to charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office and securing writings by deception. Marshall will also reimburse Delaware County $4,999 for the securing writings charge, for a total of $93,749 in restitution.
Auditor of State Dave Yost’s Public Integrity Assurance Team launched an investigation early last year as a result of a financial audit team member’s work. The investigation determined that Ohio Department of Education funds were being misused and were not spent to open Directions Academy on Powell Road as intended. Robert F. Smith of the Auditor’s office served as special prosecutor for the case. Smith said Marshall used some of the money to purchase a $40,000 Mercedes-Benz, airline tickets, rental cars, sports equipment and other personal items.
“This tough sentence by Judge Krueger speaks to the outrageousness of this rip-off. The school never opened for heaven’s sake,” said Auditor Yost. “Taxpayers should be relieved that the money is being repaid because those dollars were earmarked for educating our children, not personal luxuries like a new Mercedes and travel.”
Yost added: “Some people mistakenly believe they can steal from taxpayers of this state and get away with it. They’re wrong.”
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.