October 2006 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A California jury has convicted a charter school founder of pilfering public funds and swindling investors.

In late summer, Khadijah Ghafur, founder of the now defunct Gateway Academy, was convicted of 13 felony counts, including theft of public funds and fraud. The Mercury News, a Bay area daily, reported that Ghafur was found guilty of using $75,000 in state education funds to repay a loan to buy land for the Islamic religious community where the school resided and diverting $30,000 in public funds to a private company that the jury determined was later shifted to Ghafur’s husband.

The religious community in Fresno, called Baladullah, was comprised of followers of the Pakistani cleric Sheik Mubarik Ali Gilani.

Ghafur was also convicted of a fraud scheme that involved inflating the charter school’s attendance to raise $630,000 from private investors. The Fresno-based charter school first ran into trouble in 2002, when officials discovered that the school was teaching religion and charging tuition.