A Kaysville accountant has been indicted by a federal grand jury and accused of stealing more than $2.5 million from two charter schools and using the money to pay for trips, home improvement projects and cosmetic surgeries for his wife.
Cole Arnold, 39, was indicted on March 1 with 10 counts of wire fraud and five counts of money laundering.
Arnold was an accountant for Academica West Services from 2015 until about June 2022. The company provides services for charter schools such as "bookkeeping, reporting and payroll assistance, tax compliance, financial reporting and contract negotiations," according to the indictment.
"Arnold provided financial services to several charter schools in Utah, including North Davis Preparatory Academy and Ascent Academies," according to U.S. Attorney for Utah Trina Higgins.
Arnold also was a co-owner and the registered agent of Upper Limit Innovation. Ascent Academies of Utah has schools in Lehi, Saratoga Springs, West Jordan and Farmington. North Davis Preparatory Academy is in Layton.
Starting in August 2017, federal prosecutors say Arnold "used his position at Academica West Services to allegedly steal $2,563,348.23 from North Davis Preparatory and Ascent Academies" by creating false invoices, bills and credit card statements as well as false computer journal entries to claim "a variety of expenses, to include school supplies, teacher salaries, and other fictitious line-item expenses, for the purpose of generating payments to credit cards controlled by (Arnold)," the charges allege.
Investigators say the money was then transferred into a bank account in the name of Upper Limit Innovation.
He then used that stolen money "for his own personal benefit and the personal benefit of his family, including for travel, concerts, cosmetic surgeries, home improvements, jewelry, furniture, electronics and other personal expenses," according to the indictment. "During the scheme, defendant Cole Arnold submitted and created more than 100 false or fictitious invoices and computer journal entries to generate payments from North Davis Preparatory Academy and Ascent for his own personal benefit."
Some of the fake invoices Arnold is accused of creating include billing Ascent $24,000 for 120 Amazon cards, nearly $8,800 for cameras and equipment, $22,000 for iPads and an additional $22,000 for cheerleader uniforms, according to court records. He's also accused of billing North Davis Preparatory Academy for nearly $16,000 for windows, and creating false journal entries that included $24,000 for salaries for teacher aides and $22,000 for classroom supplies.
Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of Arnold's Kaysville home if he is convicted. His initial appearance in court is scheduled for March 30.
The case was investigated by the FBI's Financial Crimes Task Force.