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Charter school operators ordered to pay $300K in restitution

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus on Monday ordered the founders of a San Fernando Valley charter school to repay nearly $300,000 for money they embezzled and taxes on the ill-gotten gains.

Yevgency "Eugene" Selivanov and Tatyana Berkovich ran a money-making scheme with public school funds from Ivy Academia Charter Schools, which still has campuses in Woodland Hills, Winnetka, West Hills and Chatsworth.

The husband and wife founded the school network in 2004 and were convicted in trial earlier this year of embezzling school funds, laundering the money and filing a false tax return.

Among the criminal acts: the couple owned one of the school buildings and hiked the rent up $25,000 per year. They also profited from making loans to the school and used school credit cards to buy gifts for themselves and staff.

At a hearing earlier this year, Selivanov, the mastermind behind the scheme, was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months in prison. On Monday, Marcus ordered him to pay $43,899 to the California Franchise Tax Board and $227,896.11 to the charter schools.

Berkovich will have to pay $22,000 to the charter schools. She had been sentenced to 45 days in county jail, probation and community service.

The California Charter School Association feared the case would have a "chilling effect" across the charter community, saying other operators may become reluctant to exercise financial freedoms the organization believes are permissible, such as making loans to schools.

During the sentencing hearing in October, Marcus jumped on the California Charter School Association for issuing supporting briefs on the behalf of the Berkovich and Selivanov defense.

“This case has to make the public wonder, are these new charter schools just a means to defraud the public tax payer?” Marcus asked. “Again, I don’t think this is the case. But to defend Selivanov and Berkovich simply because they run a charter school is not appropriate.”