Charter school wants $1.6 million back from convicted founder

Jul 9, 2015

Officials with Grand Traverse Academy are not confident they will be able to recover money from school founder Steven Ingersoll, who was convicted of tax fraud in March.
Credit Peter Payette

Grand Traverse Academy officials says school founder Steven Ingersoll owes the school $1.6 million dollars. Ingersoll was convicted of tax fraud in March but the federal government did not charge him with taking the money.

Academy officials have defended Ingersoll and, last fall, they said they would not attempt to recover the money. But the charter school office at Lake Superior State University, which licenses Grand Traverse Academy, felt differently. Nick Oshelski runs the office. He says he’s glad the academy has changed its position.

“We felt that they should make every attempt to recover these funds,” says Oshelski. “I know that the Grand Traverse (Academy) board has met and they are turning this over to their legal counsel.”

Ingersoll founded the school of about 1,200 students and managed it through his company, Smart Schools.

Bradley Habermehl, president of the academy board, says the school’s attorney is looking at options for recovering the $1.6 million.

That process is likely to include bringing in an outside arbitrator. But Habermehl says he’s not confident the money will ever be recovered because of liens the government has placed on Ingersoll’s assets.

Habermehl says the Ingersoll incident put the school in a financial deficit.

“We did have about four months where we were in the hole but now we’re looking really good,” he says.

Habermehl says the school is back “in the black” and has plans to build a new building for high school students.