NEW YORK -- The founder of a national charter school network who once served as a White House adviser under President Barack Obama pleaded guilty Friday to a charge alleging he stole over $200,000 from the network.
Seth Andrew, 42, a founder of Democracy Prep, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court to wire fraud, admitting that he moved money in 2019 from the charter schools network to other bank accounts without authorization.
“I am truly sorry for what I have done,” an emotional Andrew, his voice cracking, told Judge John P. Cronan. “What I did was wrong and I deeply regret my actions."
“And, as I stand before you today, I have tremendous remorse for the impact it has had on the schools, the alumni and my own family,” he added.
In 2005, Andrew was a founder of Democracy Prep when it started in New York City. After its methods helped raise test scores for economically challenged children in Harlem, it expanded across the United States.
In spring 2013, Andrew left his role as a superintendent in his schools network to work in the U.S. Department of Education and as a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House. The job lasted until November 2016.
In court papers, authorities said Andrew stole $218,000 from the schools he helped create and then used the money to obtain the best interest rate his bank offered on a mortgage for a $2 million Manhattan apartment he bought with his spouse.
Andrew admitted Friday that he tried to make it appear as though the money he took from the schools came from a civic organization he controls as he moved money from the schools network accounts to his personal accounts and later to the nonprofit's account from March to October of 2019.
He said he told bank employees he had authorization to transfer the Democracy Prep funds when he did not.
In a release, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said “Andrew, a former White House adviser, admitted today to devising a scheme to steal from the very same schools he helped create."
He added: “Andrew now faces time in federal prison for abusing his position and robbing those he promised to help."
Defense attorneys Tim Doherty and Edward Kim said in a statement that Andrew for over two decades “has worked tirelessly to expand educational, democratic, and technological opportunity to disenfranchised communities around the world."
“Seth’s life has always been motivated by a civic mission and he deeply regrets his past mistakes. He has, with courage, accepted responsibility for them," the lawyer said. “With the help and support of his family and loved ones, Seth looks forward to deepening his commitment to service and innovation in the next chapter of his life."
Andrew has agreed to pay $218,000 in restitution to the Charter School Network. Sentencing was scheduled for April 14, when he faces up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed in a written plea deal that a sentence ranging from 21 to 27 months in prison was appropriate.