11 GET PRISON FOR THEFT FROM KID-CARE SYSTEM AUTHORITIES: DEFENDANTS STOLE $1.25 MILLION IN SCAM.
In the largest child-care fraud case since the local grand jury described the taxpayer-funded system as an ``ATM for thieves,'' 11 people were sentenced to prison for stealing $1.25 million from the system, prosecutors said Wednesday.
But that is just a drop in the bucket of an estimated $5 billion in taxpayer funds lost statewide since 1998, said James A. Baker, assistant head deputy in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
The grand jury interviewed more than 100 people, took secret testimony and reported that up to 50 percent of the money expended could be lost to fraud, Baker said. It could even be higher than the $5 billion total since ``real efforts to combat fraud began here only in 2004 and many counties will not even address the issue,'' he added.
In June, the grand jury said widespread abuse of child-care programs for welfare recipients was defrauding taxpayers of $500 million a year.
The scam typically involves welfare-to-work recipients who fabricate employers or exaggerate work hours to qualify for taxpayer-financed child care. Then they split the money with friends and relatives who claim to be caring for the children, authorities said.
David Sommers, spokesman for county Supervisor Don Knabe, said the supervisor has been working with state lawmakers on a bill to address loopholes in the law that would allow the state to tackle child-care fraud more aggressively.
The bill died this year, but Knabe hopes it will be reintroduced in December or next year.
In the most recent case, Carolyn Burns, 38, of Altadena, was sentenced to seven years in prison. A total of 13 people were charged in three cases and all were convicted of felony grand theft.
Of the 13, 11 have been sentenced from 16 months to six years in prison.
The investigation by DPSS welfare fraud investigators began in early 2005 after a tip from someone who attempted to visit a child-care business, Price Residential, but could find no evidence of the business, Baker wrote in a report on the case.
Burns, with the assistance of others, prepared false pay receipts for Price Residential, Baker wrote.
The children of the employees then qualified for child care at Burns' home, for which she received a license as Burns Family Day Care, Baker wrote.
In addition, Burns verified that some of the co-conspirators were employed at her day-care business so their children, along with her children, would qualify for child care paid to her sister, Suzette Burns, 39, of Highland Park, at Lil Boo Ann Day Care, Baker wrote. Suzette Burns verified that the defendants were employed at her day-care business so money could be paid to Carolyn Burns, Baker wrote. Carolyn Burns was making almost $20,000 per month, but caring for no one.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 19, 2006|
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