The former CEO of Los Angeles charter school network Celerity Educational Group is expected to be arraigned next month on federal charges of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public funds.
Grace Canada, 45, of Torrance is the second ex-Celerity official to be charged with corruption by Los Angeles federal prosecutors. Celerity founder Vielka McFarlane pleaded guilty earlier this month to a conspiracy charge that she misspent $2.5 million in public education funds intended for students.
Canada — currently principal of Kelly Elementary in Compton — was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in downtown Los Angeles on nearly the same charges as McFarlane and is expected to be arraigned on Feb. 11, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
It was not immediately known if Canada has legal representation.
Canada followed McFarlane as Celerity’s chief executive officer in April 2015, and stepped down in October 2017. McFarlane founded the charter school network in 2004.
Along with allegations that she caused the Celerity charter schools and Celerity Educational Group to falsely certify to federal, state and local authorities that they were complying with all rules and regulations governing the use of public funds, Canada is charged in the 23-count indictment with lying to the Internal Revenue Service.
At more than $2 million, the bulk of the misappropriated funds were used without authorization to purchase a building for another charter school in Ohio, federal prosecutors allege.
The charter school network — which operates six schools in Los Angeles and Compton — does not face criminal charges. 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.
Between 2009 and 2013, McFarlane used credit cards issued to Celerity Educational Groups and Celerity Global Development to buy luxury items from the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique in Beverly Hills and high-end shops in Tokyo, customized recreational bicycles for her and her spouse, and purchase more than $5,000 in leather-making equipment used by a for-profit company in which McFarlane and her family members were partners, according to her plea agreement.
McFarlane, scheduled to be sentenced May 13, faces up to five years in federal prison, federal prosecutors said. She agreed to forfeit items purchased with public funds and may be ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution.
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