Philly charter school CEO gets three years for embezzlement

    The former CEO of a Philadelphia charter school was sentenced to three years in prison Monday for stealing funds from the school.

    Masai Skief, 32, pleaded guilty last year to embezzling $88,000 from the Harambee Institute of Science Technology Charter School and a related nonprofit, the Harambee Institute. After signing the plea agreement, prosecutors said that Skief kept stealing money from the Harambee Institute. In all, he took an extra $12,000, they said.

    Prosecutors said that led them to ask for a longer sentence than the 21 to 27 months they originally sought.

    “He just continued to help himself to money for men’s clothing, for his girlfriend. He got a hotel room for her. He had his car repaired,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen. “He basically just treated the institute’s money as his personal piggy bank.”

    Until recently, Skief said, “I went through spells of ignorance and deflection and even some arrogance.” He told U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond that, though it may be hard to believe, he is now truly sorry for his actions and their impact on his loved ones. 

    “Worst of all, I let down my family,” he said. “And the worst was setting an awful example for my 15-year-old son.”

    However, Judge Diamond did not grant Skief any leniency for pleading guilty, noting, “He kept violating and kept violating and kept violating.”

    In addition to his prison term, Skief must pay $88,000 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after his imprisonment. During that time, he cannot work at the Harambee Institute or charter school.

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