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Valley Charter Operators, Guilty of Fraud, Seeking New Trial

LA School Report | October 3, 2013

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Court RoomEugene Selivanov and his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, will be back in an Los Angeles County Superior Court tomorrow, asking the judge to grant them a new trial in a case that the California Charter Schools Association says affects other charters within the LA Unified school district.

The two were found guilty in April of misappropriating more than $200,000 in public funds, embezzlement and other charges when they operated the independent charter, Ivy Academia, in West Hills. They resigned in 2010 after their arrest.

A judge will decide either to grant them a new trial or sentence them to prison. Their motions for a new trial are here and here.

Lawyers for Selivanov and Berkovich said the couple were convicted on laws that should not have applied to them and incorrect instructions given to the jury. As a result, said Ricardo Soto, a lawyer for the charter school association, which filed a brief in support of them, other charter operators have to reexamine how they conduct their own operations.

“We believe this case has a chilling effect on the autonomy and flexibility that charter schools received under the conditions they are allowed to operate,” Soto told LA School Report. “These practices are not unusual, but they will have an effect if the case is not reconsidered.”

Soto described the practices as including money spent on gift cards, meals, flowers and other items as compensation and incentives for employees, which he called a  “common practice in business.”

The couple is currently free on bail, and Soto said they are likely to appeal if the judge refuses to grant a new trial. The question then, Soto said, is whether they remain free pending their appeal.

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