Salim Ucan, vice president of Concept Schools, speaks during the opening general session of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools conference in December in Chicago. | Michael R. Schmidt/Sun-Times Media
FBI raids Concept Schools in Illinois, 2 other states
The FBI and two other federal agencies conducted raids in Illinois and two other states at charter schools run by Des Plaines-based Concept Schools, FBI officials said Tuesday.
Search warrants were executed at 19 Concept schools in connection with an “ongoing white-collar crime matter,” said Vicki Anderson, a special agent in the Cleveland FBI office that’s leading the probe.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission also were involved in the June 4 raids, but officials said the warrants remain under seal, and they wouldn’t give any details about the investigation.
The raids targeted Concept schools in Illinois — where Concept has three schools in Chicago and one in Peoria — as well as in Indiana and Ohio.
A Concept spokesman said federal education officials had conducted an audit recently.
But the FBI’s Anderson said, “What we did was not part of any audit.”
Concept was founded by Turkish immigrants and has ties to Turkish-American groups that have hosted Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and other state lawmakers on trips to their homeland in recent years, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in December. In 2012, Madigan visited Concept’s Chicago Math and Science Academy at 7212 N. Clark St., and praised the school in a video posted on YouTube.
After its efforts last year to open two new taxpayer-funded charter schools in Chicago were rejected by Chicago Public Schools officials, Concept appealed to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which overrode CPS and allowed Concept to open Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park at 2845 W. Pershing Rd. and Horizon Science Academy Belmont at 5035 W. North Ave.
CPS officials were more receptive to Concept earlier this year, approving what will be the chain’s fourth and fifth schools in Chicago, in Chatham and South Chicago.