MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Three men who held leadership positions at a Memphis charter school have been indicted, accused of stealing nearly $400,000 from the academy, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office said Wednesday.
Corey Johnson, Robert Williams, and Michael Jones all held leadership positions at the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (MAHS) charter school, which operates within the jurisdiction of the public Shelby County Schools system.
Between July 2015 and February 2021, investigators determined the three former leaders misappropriated a combined $398,000 from the school.
- Johnson, the former executive director, allegedly stole a total of at least $338,000 from the school by using school debit cards, checks, wire transfers, and cash withdrawals, the state office said. The money was used towards Las Vegas trips, NBA tickets, a hot tub for his home, and a variety of personal items and services.
- Jones, who served as the Nutritional Services Director allegedly stole at least $25,000 from the school. This included $21,000 for unauthorized food purchases for himself including shrimp, crab legs, ribeye steaks, salmon, catfish, and lobsters. He also used school funds to pay $3,500 for auto repairs on his and another school employee’s vehicles.
- Williams served as the finance director and received a little over $35,000 in duplicate salary payments and excessive stipends.
Comptroller’s investigators have also questioned another $400,000 in disbursements that were authorized by Johnson and Williams.
“These thefts were carried out over a period of four and-a-half years without scrutiny by the MAHS Board of Directors,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower in a statement.
The investigation revealed multiple deficiencies in internal control and compliance, some of which contributed to the former executive director’s, former finance director’s, and former nutritional services director’s abilities to perpetrate their misappropriations without prompt detection, Mumpower’s office said.
The Shelby County Grand Jury indicted Corey Johnson on one count of theft over $250,000 and one count of theft over $10,000; Robert Williams on one count of theft over $250,000; and Michael Jones on one count of theft over $10,000 and one count of theft over $2,500.
Johnson was first placed on leave, then fired by MAHS in December 2019 following an internal investigation, according to reporting by Chalkbeat TN.
MAHS claims on its website that the schools serves more than 750 students across two campuses in grades 6-12, and was the first charter school to open in Tennessee in 2003.
Shelby County Schools deferred all questions to MAHS, saying charter boards that operate under SCS have autonomy and lead their daily fiscal operations. WREG has reached out to the school’s board and attorney.