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Press Release

Former Accountant Providing Financial Services to Utah Charter Schools Indicted for $2.5M Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah – A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City, Utah returned an indictment March 1, 2023, charging a Utah man with allegedly planning and executing a scheme to steal money from two Utah charter schools for his own personal gain and the benefit of his family, including paying for cosmetic surgeries for his wife.

According to court documents, Cole Arnold, 39, of Kaysville, Utah, was an accountant for Academica West Services, which provides services for charter school business operations. Arnold provided financial services to several charter schools in Utah, including North Davis Preparatory Academy and Ascent Academies. Beginning in August 2017 and continuing through June 2022, Arnold used his position at Academica West Services to allegedly steal $2,563,348.23 from North Davis Preparatory and Ascent Academies. According to the indictment, Arnold’s fraudulent activity included: creating false invoices, bills and credit card statements claiming fees for school supplies, teacher salaries, and other fictitious line-item expenses, for the purpose of generating payments to credit cards controlled by himself; creating false computer journal entries claiming a variety of school related expenses; passing fraudulently obtained money through Venmo and a bank account in the name of Upper Limit Innovation, a registered Utah business that Arnold was a co-owner and registered agent of, to transfer the fraudulently obtained money. The stolen charter school funds were used by Cole for travel, concerts, cosmetic surgeries, home improvements, jewelry, furniture, electronics, and other personal expenses.

Arnold is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, and five counts of money laundering. The defendant is scheduled for his initial court appearance March 30, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. in courtroom 8.4 before a U.S. Magistrate Judge at the Orrin G. Hatch United States District Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah.

U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins for the District of Utah made the announcement.

The case is being investigated by the FBI Salt Lake Financial Crimes Task Force, which includes IRS-CI, Layton Police Department and the FBI.

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Jennifer K. Muyskens, for the District of Utah is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Felicia Martinez
Public Affairs Specialist
(801) 325-3237

Updated March 6, 2023

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 23-16