Charter school founder gets 2-year term for fraud

Posted: July 14, 2012

A former board president and founder of a Northwest Philadelphia charter school was sentenced in federal court today to 2 years in prison for stealing $522,000 in taxpayer money to prop up a restaurant, a health-food store, and a private school he controlled, and for other business and personal expenses.

In April, shortly before he was scheduled to go to trial, Hugh C. Clark, pleaded guilty to all 28 criminal counts related to his role in a scheme to drain funds from the New Media Technology Charter School.

Clark was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2011 - nearly two years after The Inquirer reported allegations of fiscal mismanagement and conflicts of interest at New Media.

The sentencing memorandum from the U.S. Attorney's office described Clark as an Ivy League lawyer "who stole funds intended for the public school children of Philadelphia. No amount of money was too large or too small for defendant Clark to steal."

The thefts included bogus $25,000 "loan" checks made out to the private Lotus Academy, which Clark controlled; $500 per month to pay bills of his failed Internet company; and a $339,000 bank fraud connected with the Black Olive Restaurant in Mount Airy. The crimes took place over a four-year period from about May 2005 and June 2009.

Federal prosecutors had requested a prison term of between 33 and 41 months to reflect the seriousness of the crimes and to deter other potential violators, especially those connected to taxpayer-funded charter schools.

Clark's defense attorneys argued for leniency on grounds that he had no criminal record and that these frauds were an aberration in a "lengthy and exceptional history of public service to the community and children of Philadelphia."

Their presentencing document called Clark "a sincere man who made a profound mistake for which he already is being severely punished." He has surrendered his law license is no longer able to practice law.

Ina Walker, New Media's former chief executive officer and Clark's codefendant, had pleaded guilty to the same charges several month before Clark and had agreed to testify against him if he went to trial.

Walker this afternoon was sentenced to six months in jail.

New Media, which has campuses in Germantown and Stenton, has 450 students in grades five through 12 and continues to operate under new leadership.


Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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