OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma County’s district attorney is taking back the investigation into Epic Charter Schools.
Attorney General John O’Connor granted District Attorney David Prater’s request to take back the investigation into Epic.
Prater contacted the Attorney General’s office in recent months and requested he take back the investigation into Epic once the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation finished its investigation. Prater, who previously investigated Epic for several years, will reclaim the lead role in the investigation and decide whether any charges are warranted
“Prosecutions must be based on final and thorough investigations by law enforcement agencies,” O’Connor said. “Our office has been waiting on the OSBI to complete its full investigation and provide its findings. I appreciate the years of hard work on this investigation by the OSBI and have full confidence in the leadership of District Attorney Prater to take it back and conclude this investigation.”
Prater told KFOR he anticipates meeting with OSBI agents next week. The investigation will be delivered to him then.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation had been investigating the charter school and its founders since 2013.
Prater originated the investigation, overseeing it while collaborating with OSBI.
The Attorney General’s office began working with OSBI on the investigation in 2020 through special counsel.
In May of 2021, a Multi-County Grand Jury released an interim report on the investigation in May, saying Epic’s system is “ripe for fraud.”
OSBI submitted its final report on the investigation to the AG’s office last Friday.
“The EPIC Charter Schools investigation has been costly, detailed and complex. Yet it was always focused on determining if taxpayer dollars were being properly spent for the benefit of Oklahoma students,” said OSBI Director Ricky Adams. “The investigation was a marathon, not a sprint, always focused on finding the truth and never a referendum on charter schools. Thank you to AG O’Connor and DA David Prater for accepting this case.”
State Auditor Cindy Bryrd investigated Epic’s operations and concluded that charter school administrators misused taxpayer money.
She delivered a scathing report to Oklahoma school leaders in April about funds spent on Epic’s for-profit branch, Epic Youth Services LLC, the company the schools contract with.
A PPP-loan report showed Epic Youth Services received a loan of $42,700 for its three employees in 2020.
Byrd pointed out that Epic Youth Services was paid $46 million in tax-payer dollars from 2015 through 2020, even though it had zero employees besides the two founders for most of that time.
“In 2019, they hired two lobbyists and a security man,” she said, “but we are unsure how these positions helped the management of the school.”
Byrd described what she referred to as falsified monthly invoices from Epic Youth Services to Epic One-on-One and Epic Blended, including invoices for certified and non-certified employees (even though there were only the three), and food services for virtual-only students.
“See the food services management?” Byrd said. “How does a virtual-only school have $37,000 spent every month, that same exact amount, $37,000, for students that require no child nutrition costs?”
Byrd said $125 million in tax payer dollars from From 2015 to 2020 is unaccounted for.
This year alone, that amount is expected to be $90 million in tax payer dollars.
Byrd recently confirmed to KFOR that she referred to Epic as the “Enron of Education.” That quote first appeared in a Tulsa World article.