HomePoliticsFormer Obama White House aide Seth Andrew sentenced for school theft

Former Obama White House aide Seth Andrew sentenced for school theft

Seth Andrew

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Former Obama White House education advisor Seth Andrew was sentenced Thursday to a year-and-one-day in federal prison for a scheme to steal $218,000 from a New York charter school network he founded.

Andrew, 43, also was fined $5,000 at his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

He was arrested in April 2021 on charges of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements to a financial institution. He pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud.

In sentencing Andrew to 366 days in prison, Judge John Cronan was actually giving him a break.

If Cronan had sentenced Andrew to just one day less, or a full year, Andrew would have been required to serve every day of that term.

But the slightly longer sentence that he received makes Andrew eligible for so-called good time credit, meaning he likely will only serve 85% of his sentence, or a little more than 10 months.

Andrew, who is the husband of CBS News anchor Lana Zak, founded Democracy Prep Public Schools in 2005.

Prosecutors said that in 2019 — more than two years after severing ties with Democracy Prep — he looted money from escrow accounts belonging to individual schools in the charter school network.

Andrew then used more than half of those funds to maintain a minimum balance at a bank account, which gave him a more favorable interest rate for a mortgage on his and Zak’s residence in Manhattan, valued at more than $2 million, prosecutors said.

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“Seth Andrew was sentenced today for stealing from those who once trusted him,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement.

“Andrew committed this crime to attempt to punish non-profit charter schools because they declined his offer to return as their leader,” Williams said.

“Thankfully, the victim of Andrew’s crime was resilient, and its important work continues. Today’s sentence sends a message that those who engage in fraud schemes and steal from others will face appropriate consequences for their conduct.” 

Democracy Prep, in its own statement, said “We are grateful this sad chapter is finally closed and thank the US Attorney and FBI for their hard work on the case.”

The CEO of Democracy Prep at the time of Andrew’s arrest last year said that a “series of financial safeguards” that were instituted after she took over her post in 2019 “led directly to the discovery of Seth’s unauthorized withdrawals.” The network then contacted authorities about his actions.

Andrew accepted a job in the U.S. Department of Education in 2013, after President Barack Obama began his second term. He later became a senior advisor in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House. 

Andrew continued being paid by Democracy Prep while serving in the Obama administration, but then severed ties with the network in January 2017.



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