PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pensacola prosecutor now acting on behalf of the Statewide Prosecutor says he’ll give two men wanted for stealing more than $1 million from charter schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough and four other counties a few more days to turn themselves in or face the consequences.
“I think there is an urgency to bringing them into custody and into court and that’s being addressed,” said Russell Edgar.
For well over a year, Edgar has been investigating Newpoint Education Partners—the charter school management company that once ran 15 charter schools from Broward to Escambia counties. In May 2016, a grand jury in Pensacola indicted Newpoint. On Monday, Russell charged Newpoint founder Marcus May and his business associate, a Newpoint vendor named Steven Kunkemoeller, with multiple counts of racketeering and organized fraud.
“These are a very serious charges. They’re first degree felonies. Each one carry a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison,” Edgar said. “The facts set forth in the affidavit are quite egregious.”
According to a 14 page affidavit drafted by David Bryant, CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner, May and Kunkemoeller carried out a sophisticated scheme of overcharges, kickbacks and fraud to enrich themselves with public tax money intended to fund charter schools.
The affidavit states that May used money he diverted to his own use for down payments on homes, luxury cruises and worldwide vacations. He also spent money on expensive toys like $10,000 for jet skis, enjoyed massages and even paid for plastic surgery.
Meanwhile, prosecutors say children attending charter schools like Windsor Prep in Pinellas County had to make do without books and other important educational tools because there wasn’t enough money left for educational necessities.
“The investigation revealed there were many complaints of a shortage of equipment and supplies and so forth,” Edgar said.
8 on Your Side’s news investigation uncovered fake loans at Windsor and other Newpoint charter schools in Jacksonville. Edgar looked at those loans and said the problem could be civil or criminal, but chose not to include the loans in his racketeering charges because of the complexity involved in prosecuting those issues.
Edgar says despite the serious charges filed against May and Kunkemoeller, there may be more charges coming against them and possibly more defendants as the case progresses.
“We’re also going to continue to investigate to see if any other person or entity should be charged and anybody with information on that should call us, should call me,” Edgar said.
Hundreds of parents who fought to try and keep Windsor Prep open are furious.
“Over 700 families had to find new schools, teachers had to find new places to teach and it was just so they could line their pockets,” said parent Page Jackson.
They want justice for their children.
“We have a vacant school that still could have been running if it wasn’t for Marcus May and his associates,” said Chris Wenzel, another parent.
Wenzel said the two stole from their children to benefit a lavish lifestyle.
“Going back a year ago, researching everything, seeing that something wasn’t right and then seeing Marcus buy a big house down in Sarasota, the money had to be coming from somewhere. Now reading through it [the affidavit], how he used it for face lifts, cruises, money for his daughter, money for other family members, the whole state of Florida should be on this guy,” he said.
Pinellas County Schools decided to eventually close Windsor Prep because of the debt.
“They knew there was another crook involved in this, but they choose to allow the school to go down,” said parent Bruce McWilliams.
Parents tell 8 On Your Side that May and his team should be together behind bars.
“Anybody who was involved in this whole thing, need to do some time,” McWilliams said.
“I hope that karma does come around and they get what they deserve,” said Dorothy Dulau.
“Hopefully they’ll be in jail for a long time. I would love to see pictures of both of them in handcuffs real soon,” said Wenzel.
STORIES OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON:
- PHOTO: Tampa police seek car involved in possible abduction of woman
- Tropical Storm Cindy forms in Gulf of Mexico
- Pinellas Co. LPN arrested for giving patient morphine without prescription
- Georgia inmates save guard’s life when he collapses during work detail
- Sebring mom who let snake bite baby won’t be prosecuted
- Dunedin bar catches fire, businesses evacuated
- Amazon strikes again; the dressing room in your house
WFLA.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.