OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Epic Charter School’s founders and their former Chief Financial Officer bonded out of jail Thursday, with their attorney only making a short statement before they left the parking lot.
“They operated Epic Youth Services legally under Oklahoma law,” said an attorney that left the jail with both Ben Harris and David Chaney.
It was roughly nine hours from the time of their arrest before Harris and Chaney left the Oklahoma County Jail. However, it was all silence from them about the allegations listed. This all comes after Harris, Chaney and their former CFO, Josh Brock, were arrested Thursday morning. An investigation taking a lengthy look into their past brought several charges ranging from racketeering to embezzlement.
“Harris Aand Cheney intentionally established a school so that their company could make big profits from public education dollars,” State Auditor Cindy Byrd said in a Thursday press conference after the arrests.
The OSBI investigation started in 2013 at the request of then governor 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.
“Ben Harris and David Chaney, two men without any true background and education,” Byrd said. “Harris even majored in political science, utilized a charter school to create a complex scheme in order to siphon off millions of taxpayer dollars.”
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.
An affidavit released Thursday said Harris and Chaney pulled in almost $70 million since 2013. That’s only from a fee charged between the Epic entities. This is something former Sen. Ron Sharp said were things he started to point out in 2018, before being sued by Epic for defamation.
“This is definitely the vindication that I needed,” Sharp said.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister also chimed in as the saga of Epic Charter Schools deepens.
“These are taxpayer dollars that belong in education, and still today there are cracks in the system,” Hofmeister said Thursday. “This could happen again.”
Byrd said this all wouldn’t have been possible without their CFO. Brock also bonded out of jail Thursday night and left at a different time than Harris and Chaney.