South L.A. Charter School Founder, Son Get Probation for Misusing $200,000 in Taxpayers’ Money

The Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists in South L.A. appears in an image from Google Maps.

The Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists in South L.A. appears in an image from Google Maps.

The founder of a charter school in South Los Angeles and her son were each sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to misusing $200,000 in taxpayers’ money meant for the campus, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Kendra Uzoma Okonkwo, 53, was sentenced to formal probation for five years and 220 hours of community service upon pleading guilty to misappropriation of public funds, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Her 32-year-old son, Jason Chiazom Okonkwo, received three years of formal probation and 180 hours of community service after admitting to the same charge.

They are expected to face a restitution hearing on Dec. 6.

More than a decade ago, Kendra founded the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists in an area of South L.A. along the border between Green Meadows and Watts. She later stopped working there due to a conflict of interest.

She and her son worked together to steal $200,000 in public funds from the school and funnel it to a business she owned, authorities said. As part of the scam, her son approved fake invoices supposedly for school supplies and food from the business.

The scheme went on between 2012 and 2014, prosecutors said, and the money was eventually transferred into Kendra’s personal bank account from the business’s account.

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