New Media Technology Charter School founder may plead guilty in theft case

A Northwest Philadelphia charter school founder facing a slew of federal charges for allegedly stealing public funds to cover private expenses may change his plea come Tuesday, according to court documents.

Hugh C. Clark, who helped start the New Media Technology Charter School in the city’s Cedarbrook section, was scheduled to stand trial next month. He is now slated to appear in U.S. District Court on Tuesday for a change-of-plea hearing.

Neither of Clark’s attorneys returned calls seeking comment.

Clark, the school’s former board president, pleaded not guilty in April 2011 in response to a 27-count federal indictment alleging conspiracy, wire fraud and theft from a federally funded program.

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Ina M. Walker, the school’s former chief executive officer and a co-defendant in the case, also initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but changed her plea to guilty in January. As part of that plea, Walker agreed to testify against Clark.

The back story

The pair allegedly stole $522,000 allocated by the School District of Philadelphia to operate the school.

Those funds were allegedly used to help finance Lotus Academy, a private school in Germantown that Clark founded, along with a health-food store, the Black Olive restaurant and web-based businesses that Clark created. The two also allegedly used New Media money to cover meals and credit card bills.

Nearly lost its charter

An investigation, launched by the School District’s inspector general in 2008, put the school on the cusp of losing its state charter.

Instead, the city’s School Reform Commission forced Walker and Clark to resign from their positions at New Media in December 2009. The SRC required the school hire a new CEO and completely replace its board, among other mandatory conditions.

In November 2011, bank fraud was added to the list of charges in connection to a hefty business loan that was awarded to purchase a commercial building in Mount Airy, but never repaid.

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