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IDEA claims former CFO used corporate credit card to pay for condoms

“This article appeared in the April 7 issue of the Progress Times.”

Former IDEA Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Wyatt Truscheit abruptly resigned in 2020 after the charter school system discovered he paid for condoms with a corporate credit card, according to documents filed Saturday in federal court.

Wyatt Truscheit. (Photo courtesy of IDEA Public Schools.)

Truscheit worked for IDEA from 2009 to 2020, when a Progress Times reporter filed a public information request for his expense reports.

“As IDEA’s legal, audit and compliance pulled Mr. Truscheit’s expense reports and conducted a cursory review of January 2018 expenses, it became very apparent that Mr. Truscheit had been living off of IDEA’s corporate credit card,” according to a letter IDEA submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2022, which added that Truscheit submitted expense reports for: “personal items such as his dry cleaning, haircuts, groceries, pharmacy purchases and healthcare products, and even such highly intimate items such as HEB purchases in January 2018 including ‘TROJAN SUPRA BRSKIN LUB 3S’, ‘SE FEM DEOD SPRAY SHIER and ULTRA EX.’”

Truscheit couldn’t be reached for comment.

A reporter with the Progress Times requested the expense reports on June 30, 2020. Truscheit resigned less than three weeks later.

IDEA, though, sued the Texas Attorney General’s Office to keep the expense reports from becoming public.

The June 2022 letter, which provided a summary of the expense reports, surfaced Saturday in a lawsuit filed by former IDEA CEO JoAnn Gama.

Gama and Tom Torkelson co-founded IDEA, which started in 2000 with a single school in Donna. During the next two decades, IDEA opened schools in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Ohio that serve more than 70,000 students.

IDEA, which prepared students for college with a rigorous curriculum and a no-excuses approach to education, received national acclaim. As the charter school system expanded, however, questions surfaced about how Gama, Torkelson and other top executives spent public money.

Torkelson stepped down and IDEA agreed to pay him $900,000, according to documents released under the Texas Public Information Act. IDEA also granted Torkelson the title of “CEO Emeritus.”

After he stepped down, IDEA received a series of emails from an anonymous whistleblower that accused other executives of wrongdoing.

IDEA hired attorney Michael McCrum of San Antonio, a former federal prosecutor, to conduct an independent investigation.

“During the Independent Investigation that lasted multiple months, Ms. Gama was interviewed by Mr. McCrum regarding certain financial transactions using IDEA funds and other activities,” according to the June 2022 letter. “Specifically, the Independent Investigation revealed that Ms. Gama had used public funds for non-school purposes, including clothes, furniture, upgraded hotel rooms, upgraded flights, rental cars for personal travel, private air travel with family to a world series baseball game, monster truck show tickets, and other events, along with dozens of other unlawful expenses including 10 laptop computers, 9 high-end pairs of headphones, 7 iPads, and over 25 technology accessories in a span of about 5 years, with many purchases coinciding with trips by her family and reports that the items were for her children.”

McCrum presented the IDEA board with his report on May 24, 2021. IDEA terminated Gama the next day.

Gama, a Hispanic woman, accused IDEA of treating her differently than Torkelson, an Anglo man — and filed a lawsuit against IDEA in November 2022.

With the lawsuit pending, attorney David Willis of Brownsville, who represents Gama, declined to comment.

1 Comment

  1. Tom Torkelson on May 8, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Tom Torkelson defrauded IDEA more than Gama and Wyatt and as a reward he got $900,000, CEO Emeritus and is now opening schools Florida. This guy should be in jail.

    Use of IDEA staff for personal reasons.
    House cleaning
    Tech support
    Driver for his kids to after school extra curriculum activities.

    His house is extremely similar to IDEA headquarters.

    High-end apartment at the Pearl in SA, $5,XXX, paid by IDEA

    Use of private plane for personal use by his wife paid by IDEA.

    and many more to list.

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