OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Just one day after being sworn into office, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond says he plans to take over a massive case.

Attorney General Drummond has notified Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna that his office will take on the responsibility of prosecuting Epic Charter Schools’ two founders and their former chief financial officer.

“As you and I have discussed and as I have said publicly, I believe the Office of Attorney General should be responsible for the prosecution of this matter,” Drummond wrote Tuesday in a letter to Behenna. “These allegations involve tens of millions of Oklahoma tax dollars intended for public education, and the State has a strong interest in ensuring proper accountability. Given the statewide impact of this case on public education funding, I believe it is wholly appropriate that fall under the purview of the Office of Attorney General.”

Ben Harris, David Chaney, and Josh Brock were charged last June with racketeering, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretense, conspiracy to commit a felony, violating the Computer Crimes Act, obtaining unlawful proceeds, and submitting false documents to the state.

graphic with mugshots for Ben Harris, David Chaney, and Josh Brock atop a list of felonies the men face

The OSBI investigation started in 2013 at the request of then-Gov. Mary Fallin based on a complaint from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) of dual enrollment in the school.

A second request then came in 2019 from a state legislator who was concerned about misappropriation of funds.

“This has been a very complex and arduous investigation with many roadblocks causing delays in getting to the truth,” said Ricky Adams, OSBI Director. “Harris, Chaney and Brock came up with a ‘get rich quick scheme’ that lined their pockets with tax dollars that were to be spent for the benefit of Oklahoma students. The OSBI criminal investigation unraveled the intricate scheme layer by layer, in spite of a lack of cooperation, legal obstacles and delay tactics.”

Investigators also called it a complicated criminal enterprise through the schools entities. This included things like comingling of funds, excessive and unnecessary management fees, the use of Oklahoma tax dollars in California, political influence, concealment of profits, submission of false invoices and the illegal use of employees.

Over the years, the scheme resulted in a cost to the state of Oklahoma in excess of $22 million.

“Harris and Chaney and Brock’s actions are the largest abuse of taxpayer funds in the history of the state,” said Cindy Byrd, State Auditor & Inspector.

Before the charges were filed, Epic Charter Schools had already severed ties with the founders.

“Today, Epic Charter Schools stands for transparency and working cooperatively with state agencies as they speak truth to power. In particular, I would like to recognize the OSBI and State Auditor Cindy Byrd for their diligence.

We proudly represent more than 37,000 students in Oklahoma, and employ 1,700 dedicated education professionals working every day to make sure Epic emerges from this era with a renewed focus on what is most important: the future of our students relying on us to provide an education that empowers them and most importantly, creates space for them.

Great challenges lie ahead but the thousands of parents that have placed their trust with our team should not worry. I promise you we will be here day after day and year after year to see your child thrive.”

Epic Charter Schools said in a statement in June 2022.