None of the perpetrators of the largest charter scam in history will serve a day in prison

The Voice of San Diego calls the A3 scam “one of the largest” scams in history but I don’t know of any that scored more taxpayer dollars than A3.

A poor person would get jail time for stealing $500 or a car. These guys stole hundreds of millions and they got home detention.

The story of the A3 online charter school empire is one of the largest charter school scandals in U.S. history. The scam had several angles, the most lucrative of which involved enrolling thousands of students who never took any classes, as Voice previously reported.

A3’s 19 online charter schools raked in roughly $400 million from the state between 2015 and 2019. Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, the ringleaders, funneled some $80 million of that money into companies they controlled. Nine other people – including key lieutenants, an accountant and two former superintendents – were also charged for playing a role in the scheme to steal public funds.

Despite such an unprecedented theft, not a single person involved in the A3 case will spend a day behind bars. McManus and Schrock were both sentenced to four years – but both have already been in ankle monitors, on home confinement. They both will get credit for time served. Several other key players had their felonies reduced to misdemeanors and two defendants essentially had their charges dropped for cooperating in the investigation…

Prosecutors weighed “multiple factors including accountability, restitution and early acceptance of guilt” in resolving the case, wrote Steve Walker, the spokesman, in an email.

Walker called the resolution of the case “just” and pointed to “the unprecedented return of more than $240 million from the hands of the defendants back to those it was originally intended for, helping K through 12 students in the state.”

The leaders of the A3 grift were Sean McManus and Jason Schrock.

McManus worked in the charter school industry for several years before he opened 19 online charter schools with Schrock. A3’s first school was authorized by Dehesa Elementary School District in East County. Dehesa only had around 150 students at the time. And yet McManus and Schrock’s school went onto enroll many thousands of students. That’s because an online charter school can draw students from the county it is located in, as well as each adjoining county.

The central component of the A3 scam involved enrolling students, who never actually took any classes, into A3 schools. To boost A3’s head count, enrollment workers would approach summer athletic programs. The enrollment workers would get each summer athlete to sign what’s known as a master agreement. That master agreement would un-enroll each student from their normal school and into an A3 school for the summer. For each summer student A3 brought in several thousand dollars. Schrock and McManus paid a commission to each of their enrollment workers and gave a so-called donation, based on the number of players that signed up, as an incentive to each athletic program.

Another part of the scam involved working with private schools. A3 would approach, for instance, a small Catholic school. The students at the school would be added to A3’s attendance rolls. The state’s public education system would dispense money to A3 for each of those students. A3 would then give some of that money to the private school – some of them were struggling financially – and pocket the rest.

McManus was charged with multiple crimes that added up to as many as 40 years in prison. In the end he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to steal public funds and was sentenced to four years in state prison. He waived his rights to any revenue connected to the charter schools or any connected business, paid roughly $19 million in fines and had his 401(k) seized…

Schrock calls himself an “Educational Business Leader” on his LinkedIn profile. He lists himself as CEO of Learning Re: Defined, “a Christian company of educational leaders and program developers who cultivate and provide training modules and curriculum built to meet client needs,” according to the company’s Facebook page.

Schrock, who also faced multiple charges with a maximum penalty of roughly 40 years in prison, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one charge of breaking state conflict of interest laws. He spent 1,506 days in an ankle monitor and was credited with time served. He also paid roughly $19 million in fines and will also serve three years probation.

The article describes the other leaders of the scheme. Open the link and read about them.