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Former principal pleads not guilty to embezzling $1.4 million from Valley charter school

October 15, 2010 | 12:29 pm

The former principal of a Los Angeles charter school pleaded not guilty Friday to embezzling more than $1.4 million from the school, authorities said.

A grand jury last month indicted Edward Peter Fiszer, 40, on 31 counts of embezzlement, money laundering, forgery and tax fraud.

Fiszer allegedly withdrew the money in 2008 and 2009 by writing two dozen cashier checks from the NEW Academy Canoga Park charter school and depositing the cash in a personal stock trading account, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said.

The case stems from an audit earlier this year by the Los Angeles Unified School District’s inspector general, which found the alleged theft or misuse of as much as $2.7 million by Fiszer, the school’s founding principal.

NEW Academy Canoga Park opened in 2005. It used the novel approach of raising private and public money to combine the school with low-income housing.

The stinging audit led Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines to move to close the school. A final decision by the district is pending.

Fiszer was arrested Oct. 4 in New Jersey and brought back to Los Angeles on Thursday by police. He is being held on $1.4-million bail. He faces up to 44 years in prison if convicted.

-- Mike Anton