3rd administrator pleads guilty in $2M West Valley charter school scheme
PHOENIX – A third administrator at a shuttered metro Phoenix charter school has pleaded guilty in a fake enrollment scheme that bilked the state out more than $2 million, authorities said Thursday.
Joann Vega, who was the vice principal at the Bradley Academy of Excellence, aka Discovery Creemos Academy, in Goodyear pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of theft, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
She faces a sentence of seven years of supervised probation or between two and 8.75 years in prison at a hearing scheduled for April 24.
Vega joined Daniel Hughes, the school’s chairman and director, and Harold Cadiz, the principal, in pleading guilty in the case.
They were accused of creating false student profiles and submitting them to the state to collect additional funding as the school’s enrollment plummeted.
According to the AG’s office, they reported about 190 fake students to the Arizona Department of Education in 2016-17 and about 450 phony accounts the following year.
The school abruptly closed in January 2018, citing financial woes, before the education department was to conduct a random audit.
Hughes pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft in November 2018 and faces between three and 12½ years in prison. His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Cadiz pleaded guilty to two counts of theft last week and faces from three to 12½ years followed by seven years of probation. His sentencing was scheduled for March 27.
In addition to their sentences, the trio were ordered to pay restitution in the amounts of $2.2 million to the state of Arizona, $91,000 to U.S. Department of Education and $230,000 to U.S. Department of Agriculture.