School head could undergo federal investigation after AP audit finds evidence of fraud

The head of the charter elementary, middle and high school of the American Indian Model in Oakland, California might be facing an investigation by the District Attorney's office due to an accounts payable audit by the state's Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a report released by the team found evidence of fraud and misappropriation of public funds by Ben Chavis and his wife Marsha Amador. The audit revealed possible illegal activities, including payment of over $300,000 to Amador as the schools' financial administrator as well as her private accounting firm. The report alleges that another $348,000 of school funds was paid for construction tasks to businesses owned by Chavis, reports the newspaper.

Also discovered were unauthorized bank accounts and more than $25,000 in irrelevant credit card purchases, such as payments for flight tickets, sporting events and restaurants, according to the Oakland Tribune. The audit revealed that American Indian Model schools paid out over $3.8 million to the couple, composed of state and federal funds given to the school for renovation projects, but which were never carried out, states the news source.

The Chronicle says the audit team reported that a lack of oversight and not implementing an efficient system of checks and balances led to the fraudulent activity. Oakland city officials asked the school board to revoke the middle school's charter. However, the board voted to keep the school running, stating that the academic success of the students should not be overshadowed by the head's illegal activities.

The Alameda County Schools superintendent Sheila Jordan said she plans to forward the report and its findings to the District Attorney's office for a possible criminal investigation, says the Tribune.

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