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Judge Robreno's tough love

Federal District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno sent the right message in sentencing the former head of a Northeast charter school to more than three years in prison.

Robreno correctly pointed out that Kevin M. O'Shea "did not break into the school in the middle of the night and steal the money. He did so in the daylight."

O'Shea's 37-month sentence is a needed warning shot to state education officials, the Philadelphia School District, and other charter-school operators. Robreno called for increased oversight of the taxpayer-funded charters so "this type of criminal activity is not allowed to be repeated."

High-profile cases like this one are meant to serve as a deterrence to others, in addition to punishing the wrongdoers. That's in part why the judge gave O'Shea the maximum sentence.

O'Shea, a former city police officer, was also ordered to repay $900,000 to the Philadelphia Academy Charter School and forfeit $500,000 to the federal government. He pleaded guilty last summer to fraud, theft, and filing a false tax return. O'Shea admitted to stealing as much as $1 million from the charter school.

The charter's CEO was fired from the school last year after Inquirer reporter Martha Woodall detailed lavish pay and business conflicts at the school. As a federal investigation later heated up, school founder Brian Gardiner committed suicide.

Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating other area charter schools. O'Shea's conviction should serve as a needed warning to any charter operators exploiting children to fill their pockets.