Former New Media Technology Charter School CEO pleads guilty to fraud scheme

The former CEO of a charter school in the Cedarbrook section of Philadelphia has pleaded guilty to stealing from and defrauding the school, to the tune of more than a half million dollars.

Ina Walker, 59, resigned as executive director of the New Media Technology Charter School in 2010. The School Reform Commission had made that a condition of renewing the charter for the publicly funded, independent school, which serves about 450 students in grades 5 through 12.

Hugh Clark, former chair of the school’s board, still faces federal trial on similar charges in April.

Federal prosecutors say that the pair diverted federal, state and local tax dollars sent to the school into their own, mostly failing business enterprises.

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According to the charges, Walker conspired to divert at least $309,000 in New Media funds into the Lotus Academy, a private school she and Clark had set up.

Then some of the money flowed out of Lotus into other of their ventures, such as Black Olive, a restaurant and health food store that Walker opened in 2008, and Tekhen Communications, a firm owned by Clark.

Walker even set up a contractor she paid to work on Black Olive, using school funds, with an office at the school, even though he did not teach or provide any other services to the school, according to the indictment.

During this whole time, prosecutors said, New Media was failing to make required tax withholdings and pension payments, and occasionally bounced employee paychecks.

Walker last year pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included theft, fraud, conspiracy and bank fraud. She changed that plea today.

The bank fraud charge relates to a $357,500 loan Walker took out from Wilmington Savings Fund Society for the building on East Mount Airy Avenue that housed the Black Olive Restaurant. Prosecutors said Walker lied on loan documents about potential lease income from the property. Walker defaulted on the loan.

Federal prosecutors said she faces a “substantial” prison sentence.

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