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Former L.A. charter schools director who embezzled millions is sentenced to probation

The former executive director of a Los Angeles charter school operator was sentenced to three years of probation Wednesday in federal court.

Janis Bucknor, 53, was also ordered to pay about $2.5 million in restitution, said Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

For the record:

5:10 p.m. Dec. 21, 2021A previous version of this article said Janis Bucknor was the former executive director of a for-profit Los Angeles charter school operator. Community Preparatory Academy was a nonprofit organization.

Bucknor pleaded guilty Feb. 3 to one count each of theft of funds from an organization receiving federal funds and tax evasion, court records show. She faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Michael Artan, one of her attorneys, declined to comment Wednesday.

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In July 2020, she admitted to stealing more than $3.1 million earmarked for school operations while she served as executive director of Community Preparatory Academy, prosecutors said. The theft took place from early 2014 through November 2019.

Janis Bucknor, 52, who ran the for-profit Community Preparatory Academy charter school, agreed to plead guilty to two felony offenses. CPA operated two schools, one in Carson and the other in South Los Angeles.

Bucknor, a Baldwin Hills resident, used the money to pay for personal travel, restaurants, Amazon and Etsy purchases and private school tuition for her children, according to her plea agreement. She also admitted spending more than $220,000 on Disney Cruise Line vacations, theme park admissions and other Disney-related expenses.

The first signs of malfeasance at the nonprofit Community Preparatory Academy came to light in February 2018 when the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Charter Schools Division conducted a routine audit of the school operator.

The audit revealed unauthorized payments made by Bucknor to Disney, Louis Vuitton, the Girl Scouts, Ticketmaster, National American Miss pageants and others.

Charter schools are privately managed public schools that are exempt from some rules that govern campuses run by a traditional school district. Charters are authorized by a local district, the county or the state, typically under agreements that must be renewed every five years.

CPA’s charter schools in Carson and South Los Angeles closed in 2019 after L.A. Unified decided not to renew the company’s charter.

Federal law enforcement agents have seized the records of an L.A. charter school that recently closed amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement.

The company was plagued by allegations of financial mismanagement over its five-year run.

L.A. Unified officials also raised concerns over issues including minimally qualified teachers, inadequate teacher training, misassignment of teachers outside their subject areas and a high ratio of substitutes, according to a district report to the Los Angeles Board of Education.

In 2019, federal law enforcement agents seized records from Bucknor’s home in a raid conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Secret Service with assistance from the FBI.


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