By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former White House education adviser under President Barack Obama pleaded guilty on Friday to wire fraud after being charged with stealing $218,000 from a charter school network he founded to get a lower interest rate on a multi-million-dollar Manhattan apartment.
Seth Andrew, 42, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge John Cronan in Manhattan and will pay restitution to the network, Democracy Prep Public Schools, which teaches https://democracyprep.org/about mostly lower-income people of color.
Andrew had also been charged last April with money laundering and making a false statement to a bank. He faces up to 20 years in prison at his scheduled April 14 sentencing, but will likely get much less time.
"For more than two decades, Seth Andrew has worked tirelessly to expand educational, democratic, and technological opportunity to disenfranchised communities around the world," his lawyer, Edward Kim, said in a statement. "He deeply regrets his past mistakes. He has, with courage, accepted responsibility for them."
Prosecutors alleged that in 2019, two years after severing ties with Democracy Prep, Andrew looted escrow accounts for the network's schools so he and his wife could buy the $2.37 million apartment.
The stolen money helped Andrew qualify for a $1.78 million mortgage with a 2.5% interest rate, a half-point reduction, prosecutors said. Andrew's wife was not accused of wrongdoing.
Democracy Prep said it operates 24 schools with more than 7,000 students in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Nevada and Texas.
It has called Andrew's unauthorized withdrawals "a profound betrayal."
Andrew founded Democracy Prep in 2005. He joined the U.S. Department of Education in 2013, and later became a senior adviser in the White House's Office of Educational Technology.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Sandra Maler)