The Columbus Dispatch on July 23, 2014 released the following:
By Jennifer Smith Richards
“The FBI is examining the relationship between the Horizon Science Academy charter schools and several technology vendors, including some based in Ohio.
Court-ordered search warrants and evidence logs show that FBI investigators removed financial documents, including check stubs, invoices, bank records and travel-reimbursement receipts from the Concept Schools headquarters and Horizon Science Academy Middle School in Columbus. Agents also took external computer hard drives and copied more than a dozen hard drives.
The warrants from early June sought any records related to the federal E-rate program dating back to 2003. Agents served the warrants in Concept-operated buildings on June 4. A federal grand jury also issued a subpoena to the schools for the same information sought in the warrants.
The Chicago-based school group runs 30 public charter schools across the Midwest, 19 of them in Ohio. Four are in Columbus. The FBI served warrants in several Midwestern states, including Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Agents searched individual schools, as well as main and regional headquarters and storage units.
The Dispatch obtained the warrants and FBI evidence logs through public-records requests to the schools. The logs don’t indicate the reason agents removed records or computer hardware, only a description of the evidence they seized.
Schools can use federal E-rate grants to purchase technology upgrades and discounted telecommunication services. Ohio’s Horizon schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, have been awarded about $7.4 million in E-rate grants since 2002.
An FBI spokeswoman in Cleveland said yesterday that she could not release more information about the FBI’s interest in the Horizon Science schools. The spokeswoman, Vicki Anderson, repeated that the FBI is conducting “an ongoing investigation that involves a white-collar type matter” and is working with the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC distributes E-rate grants.
A spokeswoman for Concept Schools in Chicago said yesterday that there’s little the schools can say about the investigation, but that Concept is cooperating.
Investigators focused on a few technology vendors in seeking invoices and payment data from the Chicago Concept Schools headquarters and from the Columbus headquarters, which oversees half of Ohio’s Concept buildings. Some of those vendors are in Ohio and one is a former Concept Schools employee.
Schools that use E-rate funds have to select vendors through a competitive bidding process to get the most cost-effective rates.
Agents seized information related to Ozgur Balsoy, vice president of Advanced Solutions for Education. The company is based in Mentor, near Cleveland, and also has headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. Records kept by the Ohio Department of Education list Balsoy as an administrator at Horizon Science Middle School in Columbus in 2007.
The FBI also removed financial information related to Core Group, Inc., which is based in suburban Chicago and run by Ertugrul Gurbuz; Cambridge Technologies based in Chesterland, Ohio, which is owned by Stephen Draviam; Sundance International, an IT company owned by Galip Kuyuk and based in Chicago and Istanbul; and the Metropolitan Educational Council in Columbus. The MEC is an education consortium that contracts to provide services to several central Ohio public school districts.
Concept Schools was founded by a group of Turkish scientists and continues to be managed by Turkish-Americans, including the three Horizon schools and Noble Academy in Columbus.
The owners of some of the companies whose financial relationships with Concept Schools are of interest to the FBI also are of Turkish heritage.
The warrant served at the Concept headquarters buildings also sought records about specific employees, including Concept Schools’ founder and the chief information officer.
This FBI’s work is separate from some state inquiries into Horizon Science. A handful of former teachers at a Horizon school in Dayton have made several allegations about that school, including unreported sexual activity in the school, unequal treatment of students and teachers, and standardized-test cheating. Both the Ohio Department of Education and the state auditor have said they will look into the matter.
Concept Schools officials called those allegations baseless but said they will look into them.”
Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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