The owner of five Illinois child care centers and several of her employees have been charged for their alleged involvement in a fraud scheme that pocketed millions of dollars from a state program meant to help low-income families afford child care.
Aleesha McDowell, 41, of Mokena, IL, is charged with 12 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. Her employees, who are also charged with various counts of wire fraud in the same indictment, are: Nicole Lacey, 36, of Burnham, IL; Stacy Sims, 43, of Chicago, IL; Janelle Jordan, 40, of Chicago, IL; Lauren Coley, of Phoenix, AZ; Shavon Johnson, 47, of Country Club Hills, IL; and Sean Blunt, 44, of Matteson, IL. Attorney information was not available for any of the defendants.
According to the indictment, McDowell is the owner of two Calumet City-based child care centers: A&A Kiddy Kollege Inc. and A&A Kiddy Kollege 2. She also reportedly owns three Chicago-based child care centers: Kreative Kidz Academy Inc., Kreative Kidz Academy II Inc., and Kreative Kidz Academy III Inc. With the exception of Blunt and Johnson, the other defendants were reportedly directors at McDowell’s various child care centers.
The indictment accuses McDowell of scheming with four of her directors to defraud the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) by submitting false information regarding some parents’ eligibility to qualify for state subsidy payments as well as creating fraudulent pay stubs and income verification letters.
The CCAP is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to provide low-income parents or parents transitioning from educational programs such as high school, college, etc. with child care services. The program is funded by state funds and block grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
McDowell and her employees allegedly assisted parents to complete false CCAP applications that caused the state to issue subsidy payments to her centers. From 2012 to 2020, McDowell and her co-conspirators caused IDHS losses of at least $6.1 million through the alleged scheme, according to the indictment. McDowell purportedly spent some of the money on a Bentley Bentayga (an upscale vehicle) and a house in Mokena, IL.
Accusations of fraud by state officials against child care center operators and their employees aren’t uncommon in Illinois. In October 2020, a grand jury indicted four owners of daycare businesses in Chicago for their alleged involvement in a fraud scheme that defrauded IDHS out of more than $1 million. The defendants in that case were similarly accused of submitting fraudulent claims to the CCAP for payment for child care services they never provided or never provided to the extent they claimed. They were charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering.
Wire fraud and money laundering are serious charges with severe penalties, which is why anyone suspected of committing fraud in connection to government programs should immediately consult an experienced fraud defense attorney.
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