PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced former charter school principal, Joann Vega, was sentenced to four months in jail and ordered to pay $2,538,722 in restitution for her role in enrolling fake students to obtain funding from the Arizona Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Vega is the second defendant to be sentenced in this case.
When Vega’s co-conspirator Daniel Hughes took over the now-closed Bradley Academy of Excellence (formerly Discovery Creemos Academy and Bradley Creemos Academy), a K-8 charter school located in Goodyear, Vega was employed as the registrar. She was promoted to Vice Principal and held that position when she, along with the school’s Principal Harold Cadiz and the school’s CEO Daniel Hughes, reported hundreds of fake student profiles to the Arizona Department of Education to fraudulently secure additional funding for the financially-failing school.
Using her login credentials, Vega entered the fake student information into the Arizona Department of Education’s Synergy registration portal. This system is used by the Arizona Department of Education to track and count a school’s enrollment. That number was used to determine the amount of aid the Bradley Academy would receive.
The school abruptly closed its door in December of 2017. An audit by the Arizona Department of Education revealed that for the 2016/2017 school year, Bradley Academy included 191 fake students in its reported enrollment of 652. For the 2017/2018 school year, which was cut short by the school’s closure in December of 2017, Bradley Academy included 453 fake students in its reported enrollment of 528. This resulted in overpayments of $2,216,366.91 by the Arizona Department of Education, and $91,356.75 by the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, Vega assisted in completing applications to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program for the fake students the group referred to as “caspers.” The fraudulent applications cost the U.S. Department of Agriculture $230,998.42.
After release from jail, Vega will be placed on five years of probation.
Earlier this month, the school’s principal Harold Cadiz was sentenced to 3.75 years in prison and ordered to pay $2,538,722 in restitution. Upon release from prison, he will be placed on 5 years of supervised probation.
Sentencing for Hughes is scheduled for November 16, 2020 in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Harriss is prosecuting the case.