Metro Atlanta schools to get less than fourth of Latin Academy thief’s restitution

Nearly a quarter of the $810,000 in restitution that a judge ordered an Atlanta charter school founder to pay will go to schools, with the rest headed to an insurance company and other entities ensnared in Christopher Clemons’ years-long theft.

Clemons, 39, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court to 55 theft and forgery counts linked to his misuse of money at three metro Atlanta charter schools he founded. In addition to serving 10 years in prison and 10 years on probation, Clemons is to begin making payments on an $810,000 restitution tab after he is released from prison.

Atlanta Public Schools, which authorized the charter for Latin Academy Charter School, is to receive $80,640. The money won’t go to the school because it no longer exists; Latin Academy’s independent board shut it down amid financial troubles Clemons caused.

Two charter schools authorized by Fulton County Schools also get a slice of the restitution pie. Latin College Preparatory School is to receive $73,643 and Latin Grammar School $38,483, according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.

“We are grateful to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement for their part in seeking justice for the community and our children, who were the real victims. The restitution payments will cover part of the losses incurred by the schools. Insurance will cover a portion as well,” said attorney Christopher Adams, who represents those two schools, in a written statement issued Wednesday.

Adams did not provide a specific breakdown of how much Clemons took from the schools.

Deputy district attorney Brad Malkin had planned to ask for $1.2 million in restitution, but he agreed to a decrease when he found out Clemons had agreed to the $810,000 sum and was willing to waive a restitution hearing, where a judge may have ordered a lesser amount.

Clemons was represented by a public defender, Meghan Callier, who said in court Tuesday that the defense asked for a lower amount than prosecutors wanted because some of the expenses in question “were legitimate.”

“When it came to finances, there was not good record-keeping,” she said.

The remaining restitution will be paid to Cincinnati Insurance Co., which will receive $358,245. The company represented all three schools.

Charter Asset Management is to receive $129,862. Clemons entered into short-term loans with the charter-school funder on behalf of the schools but without authorization.

Kingsbridge Holdings, LLC, with whom Clemons, without authority, agreed to an equipment lease, will receive $129,127.

In court, Malkin posed a question likely on many victims’ minds when he asked Clemons if he had the ability to repay the money.

"Yes," said the Ivy League-educated and MBA-credentialed Clemons, adding he would make "my best attempt."

The district attorney’s office “has nothing to indicate that Clemons will not be able to repay restitution,” said the office’s spokesman Dexter Bond, Jr., in an email Wednesday.