Federal agents have raided the office of a Los Angeles charter school network as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud and fiscal mismanagement.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the charter organization, Celerity Educational Group, which opened its first L.A. school more than a decade ago, has recently drawn the scrutiny of the inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
Federal agents swarmed the organization’s offices, collecting laptops and copying data from computers, an employee said.
Celerity manages seven schools in Southern California and has ties to four more in Louisiana.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to discuss the nature of the investigation. He said search warrants had been filed under seal.
David Holmquist, general counsel for the Los Angeles Unified District, says it is his understanding that the focus of the investigation is not Celerity’s schools, but the Celerity organization that manages them, as well as businesses that have relationships with the charter group.
A Celerity spokesman says the organization has been informed of this investigation and "looks forward to cooperatively addressing any concerns raised."
The first signs of Celerity's troubles in Los Angeles came in 2015, when the L.A. Unified school board rejected an application to open two new charter schools. District officials raised concerns over Celerity’s finances and its complex governance structure.
The district accused Celerity’s leaders of unorthodox fiscal practices, such as borrowing money from one school in order to pay another schools’ bills, spending money on expenses unrelated to the school and commingling the organization’s finances with those of separate legal entities.
Celerity’s leaders denied any wrongdoing, and the state Board of Education subsequently voted to allow the new schools to open.