Ex-charter school CEO admits $70K tax fraud
Eddie Calderon-Melendez, the founder and former CEO of the beleaguered Williamsburg Charter High School and Believe High Schools Network, has pleaded guilty to receiving over $1.4 million in compensation and unreimbursed personal charges on the school’s credit card from 2005 to 2010, though he never filed a tax return and failed to pay over $70,000 in taxes.
Nearly all of Calderon-Melendez’s compensation during the covered period came, directly or indirectly, from taxpayer-funded charter schools.
As a result of the plea, he admitted to an E felony for repeated failure to file his NY tax returns and will have to pay back all of the taxes he owes, which amounts to over $200,000 including penalties and interest. The New York State Attorney General’s Office also recommended a sentence of incarceration. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 22.
The plea follows an indictment secured in Kings County Supreme Court, charging Calderon-Melendez with 11 felony counts: two counts of Repeated Failure to File Personal Income and Earnings Taxes; two counts of Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree; one count of Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fourth Degree; four counts of Tampering with Physical Evidence; one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree; and one count of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.
“While earning a six-figure salary funded largely by taxpayer dollars, the defendant robbed the state of New York of much-needed revenue when he failed to pay his taxes for six years in a row,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “Today’s plea sends the message that tax cheats and those who violate the public trust will be held accountable.”
Last year, the state Department of Education revoked Williamsburg Charter’s charter because it did not move fast enough to separate itself from Calderone-Melendez, who had been arrested in April. However, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Ellen Spodek ruled that the department’s action was “riddled with inconsistencies and lacks a certain level of transparency.”
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