Inside the biggest charter school theft in Georgia history

Christopher Clemons. Denver Police Department photo

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Christopher Clemons. Denver Police Department photo

A $12,000 charge at a strip club. Thousands of dollars spent at Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead. ATM withdrawals of hundreds of dollars at a time.

The charges to Atlanta’s Latin Academy Charter School should have raised eyebrows. For the top state education officials and corporate executives on the school’s board, they should have set off earsplitting sirens.

Instead, the charges continued for years, siphoning more than $600,000 in taxpayer dollars that should have been spent on students.

Christopher Clemons, the school's founder, has been charged with fraud and theft in the largest such case in Georgia charter school history.

Clemons left Atlanta after the losses were discovered.

He left a rented townhome strewn with Hermes boxes, lease paperwork for a new luxury car, used boarding passes and a Rolex receipt.

He left the school so financially troubled that board members closed it.

He left nearly 200 children with few options.

And he left a cautionary tale for Georgia's growing charter school movement. Latin Academy, with its all-star board and experienced leader, seemed on track to thrive. But behind that facade of apparent success, the school spent millions of tax dollars with little public scrutiny and operated with a lack of public input foreign to many traditional public schools.

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