Vielka McFarlane, founder of the Celerity charter chain in Los Angeles, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for misappropriation of $3.2 million from the schools’ accounts. 

In January, Vielka McFarlane pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle funds for personal use. McFarlane, 56, had for years used her charter schools’ credit card and spent taxpayer money on expensive clothing, luxury hotel stays and first-class flights. The bulk of the money spent was for the purchase and renovation of an office building in Columbus, Ohio, where McFarlane intended to open another charter school.

McFarlane was also ordered to pay restitution of $225,138.15 within 60 days.

The case dates to 2012. A routine request for Celerity’s financial records from L.A. Unified’s charter schools division revealed credit card statements of lavish purchases beginning in 2009 — five years after McFarlane had founded the first charter school. The school district’s inspector general opened an investigation and eventually, the federal government got involved.

Her conviction and sentencing raise the question of why Ben Chavis, founder and operator of the American Indian Model Charter Schools in Oakland, had all charges dismissed a few weeks ago after a state audit found that he had redirected $3.8 million of the schools’ funds to his personal accounts and that he used federal charter funds to pay the lease for the charters, which were located in buildings he owned. Are there any investigative reporters tracking this story?