PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Two former employees of a now-closed Goodyear charter school are facing several felony theft, conspiracy, and fraud charges.
The Arizona Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday that grand jury indicted Harold Cadiz and Joann Vega for their alleged role in falsifying enrollment numbers that cheated government education funds out of $2.2 million.
This week's announcement comes about a year after Bradley Academy of Excellence, formerly Discovery Creemos, in Goodyear suddenly shut its doors, locking teachers and students out of their classrooms.
Daniel Hughes, the chairman and director of Bradley Academy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft back in November 2018.
Quacy Smith, the lawyer representing both Cadiz and Vegam, said Hughes should be the sole person responsible.
"These folks are not villains," he said. "They are victims who were manipulated and spun -- or caught, I should say -- into the web of Daniel Hughes' criminal enterprise and activities."
"They were victims," he added. " They were employees of that school [who] lost their job, lost their dignity, went months without employment."
Smith said his clients were the first to come forward -- before the school closed -- "after they saw the wrongs and the fraud."
"It's hurtful now that they came forward to do the right thing, to talk to the state, to have the state now turn on them in a serpentine manner, charge them with crimes," said Smith.
"It has to be for some type of political posturing regarding charter schools that the Attorney General's Office is trying to get through," said Smith.
The AG's office responded with the following in an email.
"The only part of Mr. Smith’s accusations that have any merit are that Attorney General Brnovich wants more accountability for charter schools that operate outside of the law. The independent grand jury of the two most recent defendants speaks for itself. We have draft legislation addressing our belief that more tools are needed for our office to initiate civil investigations of charter school operators accused of misconduct. We are sharing our thoughts with lawmakers and will make our draft language public shortly."