Fmr. charter school director gets 3 1/2 years in prison for stealing funds

Fmr. charter school director gets 3 1/2 years in prison for stealing funds

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - She faced up to 10 years in prison for stealing more than $1.5 million in government money meant for her school's students.

At the end of a nine hour hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Judge Terry Wooten decided Benita Dinkins-Robinson should spend three and a half years behind bars and another three under supervised release.

Dinkins-Robinson, 40, is the former executive director of the Mary L. Dinkins Higher Learning Academy, which had schools in Bishopville and Sumter.

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

Prosecutors say from 2007-2012 she converted 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 state revoked the school's charter in early 2012 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. After a lengthy appeal process, a judge ruled in favor of the state in 2013.

The school later closed for good.

In March, a jury determined that Dinkins-Robinson must forfeit over $750,000 in annuities that she purchased while serving as the executive director of the school as well as her share in a Camden house that she owned.

Copyright 2015 WIS. All rights reserved.