WASHINGTON — A Prince George’s County Board of Education member who works for the federal government plus four of her co-workers have been indicted on charges of school lunch fraud uncovered by an audit conducted by their own agency.
The Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Government Accountability Office announced the indictments of the five agency employees plus the husband of a GAO employee Tuesday.
They are accused of accepting more than $13,000 worth of reduced lunch benefits for their children although the families did not qualify for the government assistance and have household incomes well above thresholds to qualify for the food assistance.
Board of Education member Lynette Mundey plus Barbara Rowley, Jamilah Reid, Tracy Williams and Charlene Savoy all work for the GAO. James Pinkney’s wife is also an employee of the agency. They each have been charged with several counts of theft, fraud and filing false applications, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
Mundey had previously announced her resignation from the board effective Aug. 24, according to Prince George’s County Public Schools, which declined to comment further.
But the man who appointed Mundey to her post, County Executive Rushern Baker, said that he’s “deeply disappointed” in the GAO staff, whose children attend Prince George’s schools and especially Mundey.
“These allegations of improper use of this critical and much needed federal program are disheartening and concerning,” Baker said.
The employees continue to work for the agency, which will monitor the outcome of the criminal cases before deciding “what personnel actions might be appropriate,” according to the GAO.
“We were both disappointed and surprised during the course of our investigation into school lunch fraud to discover some of our own employees might be involved. We found that potential totally unacceptable and we immediately turned their names over to the GAO Inspector General for investigation,” said GAO spokesman Charles Young in an email to WTOP.
A GAO audit of the National School Lunch Program uncovered what State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks described as stealing. Between 2010 and 2014, the employees either underreported their income or reported having no income at all to qualify their children for the $2.65 lunches. Pinkney, for example, did not report his wife’s GAO salary when he filled out the application, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
Families who earn between $11,600 and $40,000, depending on the number of family members, are eligible for reduced-price lunches.
“There is no excuse for stealing funds intended to go to children whose parents cannot afford the school lunches,” Alsobrooks said in a written statement. “Their actions are made even worse by the fact that some of them claimed to have not just low income, but no income at all, even though they were working full-time jobs at the GAO.”