State money funded political donations by Epic Charter School founders

A defense attorney for the co-founders of Epic Charter Schools on Friday called their racketeering and embezzlement charge a politically motivated attack.

Ben Harris, 46, and David Chaney, 43, are not guilty, said Gary Wood, their attorney. 

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater charged Harris, Chaney and their chief financial officer, Josh Brock, 40, on Thursday.

Brock’s attorney, Mack Martin, said his client denies any wrongdoing.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation arrested the Epic co-founders and Brock on Thursday morning. They were released the same day from the Oklahoma County jail on a $250,000 bond.

“This isn’t the first time that I have been involved in a case filed by Mr. Prater within a week of an election that is based upon an affidavit riddled with false statements,” Wood said in a statement Friday. “As in my prior case that was filed with political motivation, Ben and David will be exonerated.”

More coverage: New report accuses Epic Charter Schools of miscounting attendance, unapproved bonuses

Epic Charter Schools co-founders Ben Harris, left, and David Chaney.

Wood represented state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister in 2016 when Prater charged her with campaign violations and conspiracy.

The district attorney publicly confirmed an inquiry into Hofmeister for “potential criminal conduct” six days before the 2014 primary election. She defeated incumbent schools Superintendent Janet Barresi despite Prater’s announcement.

Hofmeister denied allegations that she colluded with a dark money group to win office.

Prater dropped the charges against her nine months after filing them.

“I knew I was innocent and that I had conducted myself appropriately, and I am happy that this day has come,” she said at a 2017 news conference.

2022 primary elections will take place Tuesday. Harris, Chaney and Brock aren’t running for public office, nor is Prater.

David Prater

All three defendants face a felony charge of racketeering, four counts of embezzlement, using a computer for a fraudulent scheme, presenting false claims to the state and acquiring unlawful proceeds.

Harris and Chaney were charged with two additional counts of embezzlement and one count of obtaining money by false pretense.

Prater did not respond to Wood’s accusations of playing politics. Instead, he said “the defendants in this case enjoy a presumption of innocence.”

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