A Fulton County grand jury indicted the founder of an Atlanta school this week in connection with the alleged theft of $800,000, the largest such loss in the history of Georgia charter schools.
The 48-count indictment charges former Latin Academy Charter School head Christopher Clemons with multiple counts of theft and forgery.
Fulton County investigators say Clemons stole from it by wiring money from the school bank account to his bank account and by using money at “adult entertainment establishments for dinners and non-work related travel.” The alleged theft was discovered only after the school’s new principal noticed questionable charges.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found numerous unusual charges in Latin Academy financial records, including a $12,000 charge at a strip club, thousands of dollars spent at Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead, and ATM withdrawals of hundreds of dollars at a time.
The losses left Latin Academy in dire financial straits. It closed at the end of the 2015-16 school year, leaving about 200 students scrambling to find new schools.The school’s academic performance ranked in the top 25 percent of all Atlanta middle schools in an area where some neighborhood middle schools are better known for hallway chaos than academics.
The boards of two other charter schools Clemons founded in Fulton County have also reported more than $100,000 missing. Those schools remain open.
Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently from local school districts, under the oversight of their own governing boards.
Earlier this fall, Clemons’ lawyer declined to comment on his case.
Clemons left Atlanta during the investigation, was arrested in Denver in April and extradited to Georgia.
If convicted on all counts, Clemons could receive a maximum sentence of 735 years in prison.