OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – When Epic Charter Schools’ former co-founders and its former CFO were charged with financial crimes dating back several years, Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd said it was the largest abuse of taxpayer funds in Oklahoma’s history.

In June of 2022, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation arrested Epic founders Ben Harris and David Chaney, and Josh Brock, its former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), on multiple charges stemming from investigations dating back to 2013, including racketeering, embezzlement of state funds, obtaining money by false pretense, conspiracy to commit a felony, violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act, submitting false documents to the state of Oklahoma, and unlawful proceeds.

Byrd initially said that over the years the complicated financial scheme cost taxpayers more than $22 million dollars, following an October 2020 investigative audit into Epic Charter Schools.

Byrd said they reviewed Epic Charter Schools’ finances from 2015 to 2020 and much of the report focused on the funds spent on Epic Youth Services, which the schools contracted with.

Consequently, Cindy Byrd said Epic Charter Schools agreed to pay back approximately $20 million to the state following the 2020 audit findings.

Speaking before a state house budget sub-committee this week, Byrd said the number could be much higher.

“I do believe this 30 million will increased based on discussions with investigators and federal agencies,” she said during the hearing on Thursday.

Yet, Byrd said for 11 years the school’s annual financial statement showed no reportable findings, no abuse of funds, no missing funds and no misappropriated funds.

“Even after our investigation audit was released, Epic still filed a financial statement audit with no findings,” she added during the committee meeting.

Discussing why the audits didn’t point to Epic’s corruption before it escalated into millions of embezzled dollars, State Auditor Byrd said the Epic controversy was unusual and audits are often a reflection of the past.

“[We] udit historical information, things that have passed,” said.

“Epic was an anomaly. This is not something that can just happen everywhere, any day, it was a unique situation.”

“There are jokes that a financial audit is really to make sure the decimal point is in the right place [but] auditors determine if numbers are presented accurately and in the right spot,” she continued.

“We don’t get requested to conduct a performance audit until things are off the rails sometimes [and] if we were allowed, whenever we see something, to immediately address it, write a report to the legislature, bring it to their attention, these would be small audits not large audits.”

Byrd said once Epic’s new school board severed ties with the founders of the school, Epic saw a 13% increase per student funding, and had $30 million more dollars to invest back into student and technology needs in one year.

“As a result of the audit, 20 million in public education dollars were returned to the state treasury to be put back into all public schools,” she added.