The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Former Obama administration official accused of stealing from charter school network he founded

Seth Andrew, right, is seen at Washington Leadership Academy charter school in 2016. (Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)

NEW YORK — A senior White House adviser under President Barack Obama was charged Tuesday with stealing more than $200,000 from the network of public charter schools that he founded nearly two decades ago. Prosecutors said he used the money to pad his bank account to receive an interest rate reduction on his mortgage.

Seth Andrew, 42, who launched Democracy Prep Public School in 2005, was charged with wire fraud and making false statements to a bank for allegedly redirecting funds that belonged to the school system to his own account to help get a favorable rate on a residential mortgage for a $2.4 million property in Manhattan.

Federal prosecutors said that Andrew closed a pair of escrow accounts belonging to the school network in March 2019, more than two years after he cut ties with Democracy Prep. He put the funds into a personal account he held with the bank he was seeking a mortgage from, enabling him to benefit from a promotion that gave him a lower interest rate, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said.

The deposit he allegedly made using stolen funds put his balance at over $1 million and let him get the maximum interest reduction on the loan that the bank would allow, prosecutors said. The bank he used was not identified in court filings.

Andrew allegedly put other money he stole from Democracy Prep school in a certificate of deposit where he earned $2,000 in interest when it matured in May 2020.

Andrew’s career straddled the education field and government. In 2013, he joined the Education Department. He later became a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology, a position at the White House.

His attorney, Michael Yaeger, said “we’re currently reviewing the papers that were just unsealed this morning.”

Andrew was released after a court appearance Tuesday. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on wire fraud and up to 30 years on providing false statements to a financial institution.

Acting U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement that the defendant “abused his position as a founder of a charter school network to steal from the very same schools he helped create.”