Taylor Releases Results of Cincinnati Charter School Investigation

Financial report brings closure to W.E.B. Dubois saga

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hamilton County -

Auditor of State Mary Taylor today released the results of a special audit investigation of a troubled Cincinnati- area charter school that has already landed the school’s founder in prison.

The investigation of W.E.B. Dubois Academy reveals that founder and former director, Wilson Willard III, bilked the school and state taxpayers out of more than $700,000. A second employee is serving three years of community control for her part in a check-cashing scheme.

Forensic auditors and white collar crime investigators from the Auditor of State’s office sifted through thousands of financial records, interviewed more than 50 witnesses and seized several dozen boxes of supporting documentation over a two-year period.

“Our investigation outlines, in great detail, the fraudulent acts committed by the academy’s former director,” Taylor said. “Our forensic auditors and white collar crime investigators aided in the prosecution of a public official who misused and abused public money intended for the education of local school children.”

Specifically, the report reveals that Willard used school funds for personal purposes including replacing a bathroom in his private residence. Willard also made unauthorized petty cash withdrawals and wrote school checks out to cash for his own personal use.

Willard pleaded guilty on November 18, 2008 to charges of theft and tampering with records. The tampering charge stems from Willard’s role in altering school documents to defraud the state out of more than $540,000 in improper payments to the academy.

The Auditor of State’s final report was held for more than a year while local authorities pursued the criminal prosecution of Willard. On January 8, 2009, Willard was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $180,000 in restitution, which includes $50,000 in audit costs.

A second employee of the academy, Andrea Peterson, pleaded guilty on November 18, 2008 to attempted theft for cashing a $15,000 school check and returning $11,000 in cash to Willard. Willard later deposited his share of the money into his personal bank account. Peterson kept the remaining $4,000. On January 8, 2009, she was ordered to serve three years of community control and pay $4,000 in restitution.

A copy of the complete audit is available online at www.auditor.state.oh.us.