Gülen-led schools in Texas accused of defrauding $18 million
WASHINGTON – Anadolu AgencyA chain of Texas charter schools linked to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has been accused of fraud and financial malfeasance worth over $18 million.
Amsterdam & Partners, a law firm investigating the movement’s activities, has filed a fraud complaint with the Texas Education Agency, the firm said in a statement late on July 11.
The complaint accused the public-funded school chain and another company, disguised as independent but in fact linked to Harmony Public Schools, of a complicated shell game in which Harmony seemed to contract the other company, but for the purposes of misappropriating funds rather than performing any actual services.
Ankara has pressed the U.S. to extradite Gülen to stand trial for alleged crimes committed in Turkey.
According to the website of the law firm’s founding partner Robert Amsterdam, Gülen “controls some 150 U.S. charter schools through opaque fronts… Gülen-affiliated Harmony Public Schools has been found to be allegedly engaging [in] widespread abuse of the H1B visa program, misappropriation of public funds and discrimination against certain students and families.”
According to the complaint, Harmony - which is financed by over $250 million in U.S. federal and state tax money annually - contracted a firm called Charter School Solutions (CSS) for $44 million to manage its buildings and properties.
But the complaint alleges that CSS, far from being an independent company, was actually managed by a Harmony employee.
“For the purpose of new buildings to be rented by Harmony schools, an additional $18.4 million was paid to CSS,” said the law firm’s statement, which called the financial malfeasance “shocking.”
Amsterdam & Partners filed a formal complaint in late May against Harmony urging the Texas Education Agency to conduct a full investigation based on documented abuses suggesting a widespread pattern of fraud, discrimination and abuse in the Harmony network.
According to the law firm, Harmony operated seven charter school districts serving 46 charter campuses in Texas and had links to the “Hizmet movement,” led by Gülen, who was also believed to be responsible for forming a “parallel state” in Turkey.