Former charter school director pleads guilty to stealing money

- An Atlanta charter school founder has pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing more than half a million dollars from local public school systems.

The former principal at Latin Academy, Chris Clemons, pleaded guilty to over 50 counts of theft and five counts of forgery after a hearing and sentencing that lasted about two hours. 

Clemons was accused of defrauding three Atlanta area schools, and forcing at least one, the Latin Academy, to close because of a lack of funds. He faced up to 865 years in prison and $5.5 million in fines.

The state alleged that the 39-year-old Clemon spent more than $50,000 to Atlanta strip clubs and made countless cash withdrawals.

Parents said they were devastated when they learned what Clemons was doing. 

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In the end, he has been ordered to pay $810,000 in restitution and was sentenced to 20 years, 10 to serve and 10 on probation. 

"I am deeply, thoroughly, overwhelmingly sorry," Clemons told the court. "I am responsible for what has happened. I take responsibility for my actions."

He said his actions were "mindboggling" to him.

"All I'm left with is the stark reality of the damage that I caused," he said.

As part of his sentencing, Clemons cannot work with children, cannot work for any nonprofit or school district or have any direct or indirect contact with Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County Schools, school boards, students and parents of the three schools affected.

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