ISSN 2330-717X

Despite Active Fraud Investigation, Gülen School Still Funnels In Federal Grants – OpEd

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In case you missed it, there was a tremendously important investigative story published in the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend regarding the controversial activities of Concept Schools, one of the hundreds of charter school front organizations headed up by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Concept, which is based in Des Plaines, Illinois, has subject to an active investigation by the FBI for alleged e-Rate fraud and misconduct since June 2014 – but nevertheless, within five weeks of having their offices raided by the authorities, the Gülenists had already applied for even more federal money. The report notes that the Department of Education awarded $337,138 over three years to Concept’s Horizon Science Academy-Southwest Chicago Charter School, located 5401 S. Western Ave.

Any interesting omission? The Sun-Times reports that Concept neglected to mention that they were under investigation by the FBI in its application, and neglected to mention their ties to Gülen’s nationwide network of charter schools.

Another interesting trend revealed in the article is how Concept – like many other Gülen schools in Texas, California, and elsewhere – seeks to conceal its Turkish connection by appointing Americans and in some cases even changing their surnames. The reporters actually talked to a board member who was recruited by Concept years ago, but then never heard from them again (apparently only his American name was needed).

Excerpt from the report:

Concept had asked for more than $343,000 over two years, noting that most of the students at the school come from low-income families.

They were to receive about $200,000 of that last year, though an Education Department spokeswoman said Friday the money is now on hold.

In its grant application, Concept said the money would cover expenses including textbooks for 450 students, furniture, laptops and printers for administrators, supplies and travel to conferences.

Concept didn’t mention the raids — carried out as part of what an FBI spokeswoman told the Sun-Times remains an ongoing investigation.

But the charter operator did mention its board of directors included a Cook County circuit judge, Dominique Ross, and that its advisory board included G.A. Finch, former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Finch, a lawyer in private practice, said Concept vice president Salim Ucan offered him a spot on the advisory panel four or five years ago.

“I was asked to be on it and never heard anything further,” Finch said Friday.

The article goes on to note the trademark presence of political influence being a major factor in these corrupt schools continuing to eat up federal dollars:

Two other Concept campuses in Chicago were granted charters by the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which ordered CPS to fund them over Chicago school officials’ objections.

Concept has close ties with political figures including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who visited the Rogers Park campus and filmed a video testimonial.

His son, Andrew Madigan, also has visited CMSA. And the company where younger Madigan works — Mesirow Insurance Services Inc. — has had business with Concept in Chicago.

Seems like another very clear example of how Gülen works – misrepresentation, buying off politicians, and devouring U.S. taxpayer funds.


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Robert Amsterdam

Robert Amsterdam

Robert Amsterdam is an international lawyer and founding partner of the law firm Amsterdam & Peroff.

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