Former charter school director indicted for stealing govt funds

Benita Dinkins-Robinson
Benita Dinkins-Robinson

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The former director of a controversial Midlands charter school has been indicted for allegedly stealing government funds, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Benita Dinkins-Robinson is charged with two counts of theft of government property. She is accused of converting grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Education funding to her own use or the use of another without the authority to do so.

The two-count indictment alleges Dinkins-Robinson from 2007-2012 did "sell, convey, and dispose of money, that is, funding from the United States Department of Agriculture for various school food and nutrition programs, of the value in excess of $1,000."

The indictment further alleges Dkins-Robinson from 2010-2013 did "sell, convey, and dispose money, that is, Title I, Title II, IDEA, and other funding from the United States Department of Education, of the value in excess of $1,000."

The exact dollar amount has not yet been made public.

Dinkins-Robinson was the executive director of the Mary L. Dinkins Higher Learning Academy, which was located in both Bishopville and Sumter during its existence.

A SLED investigation into the K-12 school's finances began in the fall of 2012. The FBI later became involved.

The state's Public Charter School District superintendent, Dr. Wayne Brazell, said he's shocked by the criminal allegations, but he's not too surprised.

"We had high hopes that we could help this school perform well," said Brazell. "It's an area that's not had overall positive academic performance by students, so we really took this school on."

The state revoked Mary L. Dinkins School's charter in early 2013 and ordered it to close, but Dinkins-Robinson continued to operate, claiming MLD was still an organized school operating out of a church in Sumter.

Dr. Brazell says that has stopped. He says the school may have moved back to Bishopville, but he's heard from sources that it finally closed for good.

WIS attempted to speak with Dinkins about the allegations after a hearing in downtown Columbia, but she said "no comment" and ducked into a men's restroom.

Dinkins-Robinson faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.

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