St. Louis charter school founder admits inflating attendance

Associated Press
A gavel rests on a judge's bench.

ST. LOUIS — The founder of the defunct St. Louis College Prep Charter School admitted Wednesday that he reported inflated student attendance numbers that resulted in the school fraudulently receiving $2.4 million in state funds.

Michael Malone, 44, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of wire fraud for reporting false attendance numbers to receive more state funds.

He acknowledged in his plea the money was used to pay operating expenses and siphoned funding away from public schools, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

In the 2016-2017 school year, Malone reported about 10,044 inflated hours. The following year he inflated school hours by 13,255, according to his plea.

The school opened in 2011 and closed in 2019 when it lost its sponsor, the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway began an investigation last year after an internal school review uncovered the incorrect attendance numbers. The state audit found at least $1.4 million in excess payments to the school and $13,916 in questionable purchases by school personnel.