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NEW YORK CITY — A man who came to Vermont to establish a one-of-a-kind hybrid charter school on the campus of Marlboro College pleaded guilty Friday to devising a scheme to steal $218,000 from the school he established in 2005.

According to information from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Seth Andrew, 42, could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

“Andrew now faces time in federal prison for abusing his position and robbing those he promised to help,” stated U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a news release.

Andrew pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He had originally been charged with money laundering, lying to a bank, and wire fraud. As part of his plea agreement, Andrew will pay restitution to Democracy Prep, the school he stole from. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14.

In 2005, Andrew helped establish Democracy Prep, a charter school network based in New York City, with schools in New Jersey, Texas and Nevada. He left Democracy Prep in 2013 to take a job as an adviser in the U.S. Department of Education. In 2016, he left that position and a short while later severed his relationship with Democracy Prep.

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According to information presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Andrew had access to the school’s three escrow accounts, which could only be accessed if the school dissolved.

In 2019, Andrew dissolved the escrow accounts, taking checks issued by the bank to start a new business account in the name of Democracy Prep, according to court documents.

Andrew came to Windham County in 2020 with a grand vision of opening a new type of hybrid school, named Degrees of Freedom, dependent on federal grant money. The school was to be located on the campus of Marlboro College, which merged with Emerson College in Boston. The campus was sold to the Democracy Builders Fund 1 for $225,000 in cash and the assumption of $1.5 million debt the college owed to the Marlboro Music Festival.

The school was close to opening, though delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, when Andrew was arrested in New York City.

Following his arrest, plans to open the school were put on hold and eventually cancelled. In July, Marlboro Music, which has hosted a summer music festival on the campus for the past 70 years, purchased the entire campus and its buildings from Democracy Builders for $2,740,000.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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