Monday, June 1, 2009

Ex-Minneapolis charter school director stole $1.38M from INDIAN School....

Now aint that a bit like stealin from the govt? Shouldnt that be like, a federal crime? I guess the question is, who pays for this charter school?


A former Minneapolis charter school executive director is charged with stealing $1.38 million from the American Indian school. Investigators will speak about the charges at noon today.

By PAUL WALSH and JENNA ROSS, Star Tribune staff writers

Last update: June 1, 2009 - 2:13 PM

A former Minneapolis charter school executive director is charged with stealing $1.38 million from the American Indian school, while at the same time living in a home with a pool, driving luxury vehicles and frequenting strip clubs.

Joel Pourier, 39, of Shakopee, was charged Friday with eight felony counts of theft by swindle by embezzling the money from August 2003 through July 2008 from the Oh Day Aki Heart of the Earth Charter School.

At a noon press conference today, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek called Pourier's actions "shocking."

"This is just about as bad as it gets," he said.

Pourier is being held in the county jail on $25,000 bail. His attorney said his client is innocent and plans to plead not guilty.

"It took a long time for them to finally bring forward specific accusations against him, and we look forward to showing why these are not true," said Pourier's attorney, Tom Sieben.

As the embezzlement persisted for five years, according to the criminal complaint, the school "routinely did not have enough money to finance field trips [or pay for] supplies, computers or text books for the students."

Eventually, the complaint said, "The defendant's embezzlement and mismanagement finally led to the closing" of the school last summer.

Pourier would add official-looking memo lines to bank transfers to make them look legitimate. For example, on one $18,345 transfer, he added the line "Speech and Therapy," the complaint says.

Last summer, he became the focus of a Hennepin County Sheriff's Office investigation into money missing from the school.

The school was founded by the American Indian Movement in the 1970s to provide a nurturing environment for American Indian students. There were about 220 students enrollment when the school closed.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed in Hennepin County, a confidential informant told investigators that Pourier wrote checks to pay for goods and services the school never received. An informant also said that Pourier wrote checks to himself and paid his personal credit card with money from school accounts.

Records as of last summer showed him owning at least three homes: one valued at $667,000 in Shakopee, another at $205,000 in New Prague and the third, in Minneapolis, at $320,000. The New Prague home was bought by Pourier's wife, Christin, in 2002. Pourier bought the Minneapolis home in December 2005 and the Shakopee home, in the exclusive Eagle Creek Preserve, in December 2006. He's also owned an Escalade and a Hummer.

On his resume, Joel Pourier characterizes himself as having "a successful administrative and financial track record" and a master's degree in business administration from Chadron (Neb.) State College. According to the registrar's office at Chadron, Pourier never attended the school.

He also said he has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Schenectady County Community College in Schenectady, N.Y., (Bloggers note: OMG this is where I went to school!) and an associate degree in accounting from Haskell University in Lawrence, Kan. Officials at both schools said Pourier did not earn degrees there.

"His whole life appears to be a life of lies," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Star Tribune staff writers James Walsh and Patrice Relerford contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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