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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reformed Felon Strikes Again

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2006 at 12:52 PM

The Rev. Mark C. Olds has made a name for himself in recent years preaching the song of redemption. Having overcome a checkered past filled with drugs, robbery, and the requisite involuntary manslaughter conviction, he transformed into an earnest spokesman for reform when he moved to Cleveland. Last year, he helped draft a state bill to seal the criminal records of people with multiple felony convictions. Olds called it a "jobs bill," and claimed it would help hundreds of reformed sinners like him. Hundreds of hopeful ex-cons rallied around him at forums here and in Columbus, and Olds became a media darling. Too bad he was already running from the law. Last week, the U.S. Attorney's office indicted Olds and two cronies for conspiring to defraud the state of $2.2 million in charter school funds. Olds and pals Shirley Haynes and Timothy Daniels operated the Cleveland Academy of Math, Science and Technology from 2002 to 2003. But according to the feds, they never really had the best interests of the kids at heart. Borrowing a trick from Cleveland public schools, they grossly inflated attendance numbers and taught in a building with no heat and a wall that collapsed during class. Meanwhile, they used school funds to line their own pockets and funnel money to their companies. They bought furniture and computers, paid off credit card bills. Olds even bought himself an aquarium. The good reverend, of course, has pleaded not guilty. Expect him to draft a new bill legalizing fraud any day now. -- Lisa Rab

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