Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Harold Cadiz pleaded guilty Friday, Feb. 14, to reporting false student enrollment at the Bradley Academy of Excellence in Goodyear, also known as Discovery Creemos Academy.
The false reporting resulted in an approximately $2.2 million loss to the Arizona Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Under the plea agreement, Cadiz faces between 3 and 12.5 years in prison, followed by supervised probation up to seven years. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 27.
According to the January 2019 indictment, Cadiz, principal of the since-closed school, and registrar Joann Riojas Vega conspired with other school employees to overreport the number of enrolled students to the Arizona Department of Education.
This increased the funds paid to Bradley Academy by the Arizona Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, resulting in approximately $2.2 million of fraudulently obtained funding.
In November 2018, Daniel Hughes, the chairman and director of the Bradley Academy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft for his role in the fraud.
Hughes has not been sentenced. A sentencing hearing for Hughes has not been scheduled.
According to the attorney general’s office, the Bradley Academy was failing financially due to low enrollment numbers. To avoid reduced payments, the Bradley Academy of Excellence “enrolled” fake students.
The investigation discovered during the 2016-2017 academic year, Bradley Academy reported approximately 191 fake students to the Arizona Department of Education, then 453 “fake students” the following year, according to the attorney general’s office.
The Bradley Academy closed abruptly in January of 2018, ahead of a random audit from the Arizona Department of Education.
“In preparation for the audit, Cadiz created hundreds of fraudulent documents to support fake students including photoshopped parents’ driver licenses, student birth certificates and student shot records,” Brnovich said.
The case against Vega is ongoing.