Charter school chiefs charged in $522,000 fraud scheme

A federal grand jury has indicted the two former top officers of the New Media Technology Charter School of stealing $522,000 from the institution.

The 27-count indictment charges Hugh C. Clark, 64, and Ina M. Walker, 58, with conspiracy, wire fraud, and theft from a federally funded program, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger announced today.

The pair, both from Philadelphia, allegedly used the money to pay expenses at the Lotus Academy, a small private school they controlled; to fund personal businesses, including the Black Olive health food store and the Black Olive restaurant; and for their own personal expenses, Memeger said.

Clark was the school's board president and Walker was its CEO.


Clark, who was arrested this morning, was released on a $25,000 recognizance bond after have an initial appearance before a federal magistrate this afternoon.

Walker will have her initial hearing Friday. Both will be arraigned next week.

In order to obtain a new operating charter, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission required Walker, Clark and the rest of the school's board to resign and to sever all ties to the charter school.

The overhaul was completed last July.

New Media, which enrolls students from fifth grade through high school, has campuses in the Stenton and Germantown neighborhoods.

The Inquirer first reported allegations of fiscal mismanagement and conflicts of interest involving Walker and Clark at New Media in May, 2009.

The charter school's finances were so shaky it had to borrow money just to make payroll, the paper reported. And parents complained that the charter had failed to provide adequate books and computer technology to its middle school students.

The charter, which was founded in 2004, attracted support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, state lawmakers, and educators.

The school also received about $500,000 over three years in state funds for facility costs through Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp., a nonprofit founded by State Rep. Dwight Evans, (D., Phila).

The school district's inspector general began looking into New Media's finances in late 2008 after the SRC received an anonymous letter purportedly written by teachers who claimed the charter was deducting money from their paychecks but not sending the funds to the state pension system.

The school is among at least 18 area charter schools under federal investigation, sources have said.

Contact the Inquirer Online News Desk at online@phillynews.com or 215-854-2443.

Follow the Inquirer at www.Twitter.com/PhillyInquirer and www.Facebook.com/PhillyInquirer