Federal agents raid Los Angeles charter school network
Federal agents raided the offices of a network of Los Angeles charter schools Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud and fiscal mismanagement.
The charter organization, Celerity Educational Group, opened its first L.A. school more than a decade ago, but it has recently drawn the scrutiny of the inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. It currently manages seven schools in Southern California, and has ties to four more in Louisiana, all of which are publicly funded but privately operated and exempt from many of the regulations that govern traditional schools.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security confirmed their involvement in the raid on the charter organization’s headquarters, as did a spokeswoman for the FBI’s field office in L.A.
The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Education is also involved, according to well-placed law enforcement sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to discuss the nature of the investigation. He said search warrants had been filed under seal and would not be made public.
L.A. Unified officials confirmed Wednesday that they’d been alerted that the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles was going to oversee the serving of a search warrant on Celerity’s offices.
“I don’t know what information the U.S. attorney is relying on, but the district’s inspector general has conducted a thorough and ongoing investigation into this matter, and I expect that some of that work led to this,” L.A. Unified general counsel David Holmquist said.
Holmquist added that it is his understanding that the focus of the investigation is not Celerity’s schools, but the Celerity organization that manages them, as well as businesses that have relationships with the charter group.
An employee of the charter organization, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, described the scene that unfolded early Wednesday morning as like “something out of a movie.”
Federal agents swarmed the organization’s offices, collecting laptops and copying data from computers, the employee said.
Celerity founder Vielka McFarlane could not be reached for comment.
"Celerity has been informed of this investigation and looks forward to cooperatively Federal agents raid Los Angeles charter school network - LA Times: