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Former Obama White House aide Seth Andrew sentenced for college theft

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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 Recent 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 three hundred and sixty six days in prison, Judge John Cronan was actually giving him a break.

If Cronan had sentenced Andrew to only at some point less, or a full 12 months, Andrew would have been required to serve day-after-day of that term.

But the marginally 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 somewhat greater than 10 months.

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

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

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

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

“Andrew committed this crime to try 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 necessary work continues. Today’s sentence sends a message that those that engage in fraud schemes and steal from others will face appropriate consequences for his or her conduct.” 

Democracy Prep, in its own statement, said “We’re grateful this sad chapter is finally closed and thank the US Attorney and FBI for his or her exertions on the case.”

The CEO of Democracy Prep on the time of Andrew’s arrest last 12 months said that a “series of economic safeguards” that were instituted after she took over her post in 2019 “led on to the invention of Seth’s unauthorized withdrawals.” The network then contacted authorities about his actions.

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

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

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