Feds seize financial data from 2 charter schools

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Exterior shot of Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School on Erie Avenue in Philadelphia. ( Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel / Staff Photographer )

Financial records were seized from two Philadelphia charter schools yesterday morning, the latest in a string of investigations into possible financial mismanagement at city charters.

Federal agents retrieved records from the Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School, on Erie Avenue near J street in Juniata, and from Fairhill Community High School, on 4th Street near Somerset, in Fairhill, said Michael Mustokoff, an attorney representing both schools.

Mustokoff said that he was told two weeks ago by the School District of Philadelphia that both schools' records would be picked up yesterday for review.

"The records were on-site and available," Mustokoff said.

"We were surprised by the unnecessary appearance of FBI agents to retrieve the very same records that were awaiting inspection."

Special Agent Frank Burton, of the FBI, said he could neither confirm nor deny the agency's involvement in yesterday's events.

Community Academy of Philadelphia was the first charter school to open in Philadelphia in 1997, according to the Web site of One Bright Ray Inc., the organization that runs both schools.

In recent months, several Philadelphia-area charter schools have come under investigation for fiscal wrongdoing.

Last month, two leaders of the Philadelphia Academy Charter School pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing funds from the school. In May, Brien N. Gardiner, founder of the school, committed suicide.

Allegations of financial mismanagement have also been leveled at New Media Technology Charter School, with campuses in the city's Germantown and Stenton neighborhoods, and Germantown Settlement Charter School, which closed in June.

It was unclear whether yesterday's events were related to the other investigations.