Kevin Ward, former mayor of Hyattsville, is in a blue suit with a white boutonniere.
Kevan "Scooter" Ward was 44 when he died. Credit: City of Hyattsville

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Former Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward, who died by suicide in January, is now accused of embezzling $2.2 million meant to purchase laptops and tablets for students at KIPP DC Public Charter Schools.

Federal investigators filed a civil forfeiture action in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Monday, accusing Ward of setting up shell companies in April 2020 to invoice the charter network for laptops, tablets, and programs as the charter network that serves about 7,000 students shifted to virtual learning. Ward was the charter network’s technology director.

But KIPP never received the devices, and instead, investigators say, Ward used the money to purchase property in West Virginia, sports memorabilia, and multiple luxury vehicles including two Teslas, a Ducati motorcycle, a Ford Super Duty F-450, and an Alfa Romeo Giulia, according to the court filing.

KIPP DC spokesperson Tom Clark has said an internal review by the school uncovered the fraudulent spending. “These funds originated from KIPP D.C.’s financial reserves and from a single private grant. No federal grant funds were used to reimburse these fraudulent invoices,” he said. KIPP DC has recovered $1 million so far, and could get another $800,000 from the Department of Justice’s asset recovery section.

There is a well documented history of corruption in D.C.’s charter schools. Former WUSA9 anchor J.C. Hayward retired in 2015 following a D.C. attorney general investigation into a scheme to divert millions from teens at an at-risk charter school, where she served as board chairperson. She later settled with the city, and her attorney said she was unaware of the alleged scheme.

Also in 2015, Kent Amos, who founded Community Academy, agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit in which the District accused him of funneling the school’s taxpayer funds to his for-profit company.

And Jeff Smith, a former candidate for the Ward 1 Council seat, was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 2014 for a campaign finance scheme in which he was accused of funneling funds through a charter school company and taking a cut for himself.

Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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