TRAVERSE CITY — The founder of Grand Traverse Academy received more than $600,000 linked to the charter school and its management company since his indictment on federal tax fraud accusations, according to recently filed court documents.
U.S. attorneys in an April 29 memorandum claim Steven Ingersoll failed to disclose the money as income before his now-delayed sentencing on tax fraud conspiracy and tax evasion charges, a conviction that carries a maximum term of five years in prison.
The document expands on a previous filing that asserted Ingersoll continued to receive payments from Full Spectrum Management, which has run the charter school since Ingersoll and his own firm parted ways with the school. It details $627,624.14 that flowed into Ingersoll's accounts between April 2014 — when federal authorities indicted him — and March of this year.
The money mostly originated from FSM, but one transaction is characterized as "unique" in the filing — a $54,358.41 wire transfer from a PNC Bank account in the name of Grand Traverse Academy to Ingersoll's personal bank account. Grand Traverse Academy Superintendent Susan Dameron said the school had no access or control over money in the account.
"It was an account of Steve Ingersoll’s and the previous management company," she said. "It was listed as a Grand Traverse Academy account but we didn’t have any signing rights."
That transaction occurred in June 2015, two months after Ingersoll's conviction in federal court. The verdict kicked off lengthy sentencing hearings that now are on hold following Ingersoll's April 1 heart attack.
Ingersoll is scheduled to appear May 16 before Judge Thomas Ludington for a status conference.
Federal prosecutors assert Ingersoll "victimized" Grand Traverse Academy and argue Ludington should enhance Ingersoll's criminal sentence accordingly. School officials in 2015 wrote off $1.6 million Ingersoll owed the school when he was indicted.
The latest filing claims financial evidence continues to raise doubts about the credibility of former school board president Mark Noss — who signed affidavits for Ingersoll’s defense and runs FSM — and current board president Brad Habermehl, who testified on Ingersoll's behalf.
Habermehl in 2014 solicited investors to loan Ingersoll $300,000 toward the development of a new school after Ingersoll's indictment, the document states. Habermehl didn't return a call for comment.
Noss recently acknowledged FSM makes $12,500 intellectual property payments monthly to Ingersoll for Integrated Visual Learning, described by Noss' Excel Institute website as "an extension of behavioral optometry into the field of education.” But prosecutors assert in the filing that FSM provided "much larger sums" to Ingersoll's various accounts, but not the entity set up for his intellectual property.
Noss referred questions to Dameron and school board Vice President Lea Piché. He didn't return multiple requests for phone interviews.
Piché said Noss explained the payments in an email sent to the Record-Eagle, in which Noss stated the "difference was a transfer for the first GTA payroll that FSM was unable to perform" because the company's bank account and direct deposits into employee accounts weren't set up. The email further states the rest came from paying "the accountant during the transition period until FSM’s accountant was up to speed."
The filing asserts Ingersoll obstructed justice by not disclosing the transactions. Prosecutors asked Ludington to direct Ingersoll submit a financial report subject to the penalties of perjury.
"The evidence reveals that Ingersoll has not been candid with the court, the court's probation officer, nor the government regarding his income stream," the filing states. "Simply put, Ingersoll has been hiding his assets from the court and the government."
Ingersoll's attorney Jan Geht didn't comment on specific accusations about Ingersoll's finances made in the filing.
"We’re not commenting until we file a response," Geht said.
Geht did echo arguments made in a prior response that maintained Ingersoll did report the income. He said the government's attorneys simply didn't understand where the individual transactions fell on a summary report Ingersoll provided of his finances.
Prosecutors could have asked for a more-detailed breakdown explaining how the transactions rolled into the summary, he said.
"That’s not what they did," he said.
The prosecutors' filing called it "nothing short of astounding" that Ingersoll retained the ability to make a $54,000 wire transfer from a "previously unknown" GTA account more than a year after his connection to the school was terminated and months after his conviction.
Dameron said federal authorities didn't contact school officials about the account. She said school officials knew about the account but found it didn't have anything to do with the school.
"To my knowledge, no money from Grand Traverse Academy has been transferred over to Steven Ingersoll," she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Parker didn't return a call for comment.