Tindley Accelerated Schools’ former CEO is charged with defrauding the charter network

One corner of a red and white school building with the address and name of the school in large white letters.
Tindley Renaissance Academy was one of two schools the network consolidated with other schools amid financial struggles in 2019. (Erica Irish/Chalkbeat )

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The former CEO of an Indianapolis charter network is accused of defrauding its schools by working with two other individuals to bill for goods and services that were never provided.

Brian Metcalf, who served as CEO of Tindley Accelerated Schools from July 2019 to December 2022, was charged with nine counts of wire fraud as part of what a federal indictment describes as a “scheme to defraud and to obtain money” from an unidentified Indianapolis charter school system and another unidentified nonprofit corporation.

Tindley’s board of directors confirmed to Chalkbeat that the charter network was “one of two victims defrauded by the alleged criminal enterprise.”

The indictment claims that two other defendants, Kimberly Maddox and James Darnell Campbell, billed false invoices to the charter network in collaboration with Metcalf. The two later sent money to Metcalf or made payments on his behalf, the indictment alleges — including payments for credit card, car loan, and mortgage expenses, as well as payments to a casino that hosted his family reunion and a construction company that repaired his roof.

The federal government seeks over $1 million from Metcalf through federal forfeiture laws.

A grand jury in Illinois presented the indictment, which was under seal until December 2023. Maddox and Campbell were charged with four and five counts of wire fraud, respectively.

Attorneys for Metcalf declined to comment on the allegations, while attorneys for Maddox and Campbell did not respond to questions from Chalkbeat. Court documents indicate that all three have pleaded not guilty.

News of the indictment, first reported by Chalkbeat, follows the indictment of operators of two virtual charter schools in January — charges that raised questions about charter school oversight and accountability. Another former Tindley CEO also faced scrutiny in 2015 for incurring lavish travel expenses while the charter network struggled for cash.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois did not respond to questions about how much money the alleged fraud involved, or what services the defendants allegedly billed to the school. But the indictment alleges that the fraud began occurring months after the Tindley network closed and consolidated two of its five Indianapolis schools, citing financial struggles and low enrollment. The network now operates three schools spanning grades K-12 and serves 975 students, according to state enrollment records.

In a statement to families, the school said it intends to seek restitution.

“In addition to fully cooperating with federal authorities, we hired the law firm of Ice Miller and a forensic accounting firm to conduct an independent investigation to understand the facts of the situation, assess our internal processes and procedures, and implement additional safeguards,” the board told parents in a message in December.

Metcalf helped invoices appear legitimate, court documents claim

Metcalf was selected to lead Tindley in late June 2019, according to a Facebook post from the school. He previously worked in Chicago Public Schools.

Court documents say that Metcalf and Maddox agreed that Maddox would submit fraudulent invoices to Metcalf, who would trigger payment from his employers — first, an unnamed nonprofit corporation from 2018 to 2019, then Tindley schools from October 2019 to August 2022.

After receiving the funds, Maddox would then pay Metcalf a portion of the funds through CashApp, or make payments for Metcalf’s personal expenses such as credit card bills and the payment to the casino, the filings say.

Documents further say that Campbell, an accountant for Maddox, also submitted fraudulent invoices beginning in 2021 to Metcalf, who would trigger the payment from Tindley. After receiving the funds, Campbell would pay Metcalf through checks, or via payments to his mortgage and auto loan providers, the documents say.

Metcalf is accused of providing language to Maddox and Campbell that would make the invoices appear legitimate.

Through federal forfeiture laws, prosecutors are seeking just over $1 million from Metcalf, as well as a Chicago property. They’re also seeking $365,700 from Maddox and $400,000 from Campbell.

It’s unclear whether the charges could lead to jail time.

As the Tindley network’s CEO, Metcalf made $190,726 in 2022, according to state public employment records.

Tindley families informed of indictment, charter network says

Metcalf is no longer affiliated with the school.

He resigned Dec. 14, 2022, after school officials attempted to serve with him a subpoena the school received on Dec. 6, according to Hilary Buttrick, chair of the Tindley board. The board appointed Sandra Tresselt as interim CEO, while cooperating with law enforcement and conducting an internal investigation, Buttrick said.

The school was asked not to disclose any information about the law enforcement investigation until it was complete, Buttrick said. The school shared information with Tindley families the day after the indictment was unsealed in December 2023.

The school hired a new president, Jonathan Harris, in June 2023.

A spokesperson for the school’s authorizer, the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation, said the Tindley board “notified OEI of the allegations and has maintained communication throughout this process.”

Two schools in the network were renewed before the office was made aware of the allegations: Tindley Summit Academy in 2021 and Tindley Genesis Academy in 2022.

Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School is set to go through the renewal process this fall.

The federal case has a status hearing set for July.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org.

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

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