DC files suit against 4 parents, city employee for defrauding schools

School is in session at Janney Elementary School in Tenleytown on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
WASHINGTON — Four Maryland parents and a D.C. employee are in hot water with the city, facing fraud charges for allegedly enrolling their children in District schools.

The lawsuits filed by Attorney General Karl Racine’s office cite the specific circumstances under which each group of parents reportedly defrauded the city during the 2014-15 school year.

Parents and caregivers of kids in D.C. can enroll their students for free in city public and charter schools, but those who live outside the city must pay between $10,000 and $14,000 a year in tuition, depending on the student’s grade.

“Under the false claims act — that’s the law under which we brought suit — we’re able to seek reimbursement of all the amount of money that should be paid, times three,” Racine told WTOP.

He alleged that by falsifying their residency, these parents fleeced the District out of $450,000.

In one case, the suit alleged a D.C. resident claimed she was the caregiver of another woman’s daughter who lived in Maryland so the girl could attend Dunbar High School.

The schools the kids attended include Wilson and Dunbar high schools, Hardy Middle School and Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School.

Nonresidency fraud cases start with the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, which has incidents of investigating parents who could prove they lived in D.C., including at Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

The reason Racine’s office is seeking a fine in triplicate for the parents listed in the suit is to deter other parents from attempting to defraud the system, he said.

“We’re continuing to investigate and bring more suits. We’ve got about 80 cases we’re investigating now. So, be on the lookout for more action in the coming months,” Racine said.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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