As the old saying goes, better to steal a million dollars than to steal a loaf of bread. The former is smart thinking, the latter is a crime.

In Livermore, California, the leaders of a charter chain were charged with securities fraud. But they got off without any criminal charges or jail time.

When you read this story, you realize what clever guys they were to figure out such a complex scheme. You have to be an accountant to follow the money.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged former CEO of the Tri-Valley Learning Corporation, Bill Batchelor, with allegedly misleading investors when acquiring a $25 million bond for Livermore charter schools.

Batchelor and John Zukoski, the former director of finance for the schools, were charged with a violation of the antifraud provision of the Securities Act of 1933. They were accused of helping prepare and sign a bond-offering document of $25.54 million to fund the purchase and renovation of a Livermore building to house two schools in May 2015. One was a charter school run by the Tri-Valley Learning Corporation (TVLC) and the other was a private school, which Batchelor also managed.

But according to the complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and made public this week, both men were aware that TVLC had “serious cash flow problems” that would negatively affect the corporation’s ability to make payments on the bonds. The commission also alleges that TVLC was delinquent on payments owed to vendors, had other debt from a private loan that was overdue by a year and had drawn a bank line of credit to its limit in a previous bond.

But, the bond document failed to disclose that TVLC was in “serious financial distress,” and both Batchelor and Zukoski signed documents stating the material had no misrepresentations or omissions.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Batchelor and Zukoski agreed to not participate in any future municipal debt offerings. Batchelor agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty, and Zukoski a $15,000 penalty. Both settlements are subject to a court approval, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

TVLC and California Preparatory Academy, the private high school school, went before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors seeking approval for a $30 million municipal bond to finance the purchase of a new high school building at 3090 Independence Drive in May 2015.

The bond was approved, and the Livermore Valley Charter Prep high school and the private school ended up sharing the same space on Independence Drive in Livermore.