The founder of Los Angeles charter school network Celerity Educational Group is set to plead guilty Tuesday to a federal count of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public funds.
Vielka McFarlane admitted in a plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court that she misspent about $2.5 million in public funds intended for Celerity students.
The felony charge stems from the 57-year-old Sylmar resident’s habit of using her charter schools’ credit card to pay for expensive clothing, luxury hotel stays and first-class flights for her and her family, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
McFarlane founded Celerity Educational Group in 2004 and served as its chief executive officer until April 2015.
“When anyone repurposes public school funds for self-serving reasons, students suffer,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said last month. “This case involving the former CEO of Celerity demonstrates our ongoing efforts to protect and safeguard public funds, and to hold accountable those who improperly use those funds for their own gain.”
Once McFarlane pleads guilty, she will face up to five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge, federal prosecutors said.
In June 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office entered into an agreement with Celerity Educational Group, now known as ISANA Academies, in which ISANA recognized and acknowledged the misconduct committed by McFarlane, agreed to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation, and agreed to implement certain reforms designed to ensure that similar conduct does not occur again.
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