Federal prosecutors: Former Hyattsville mayor defrauded KIPP DC of $2.2 million

The former mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, who died in January, was under investigation for allegations he defrauded the D.C. public charter school he worked for of $2.2 million, according to a lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors.

Kevin Ward had been the senior director of technology for KIPP DC when the school “identified irregularities with select technology purchases made during the rapid shift to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic” during a routine review in December 2021, the school said in a statement Tuesday.

CBS News was first to report details of the investigation.

The school said that as soon as it uncovered evidence of fraud, it referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which conducted the legal investigation.

Ward took his own life in late January of this year.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office determined that Ward had defrauded the school of $2.2 million intended for student devices and services that were needed during the transition to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. They filed a civil forfeiture suit on Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Ward placed orders totaling $2.2 million on behalf of the school for laptops, tablets and other devices from Tenret Tech (and an affiliate) between April 2020 and October 2021.

Tenret only came into existence in April 2020, and its Maryland articles of organization listed Ward as its authorized person and resident agent, which would give him license to manage contracts as well as tax and legal documents on behalf of the corporation, according to the complaint. Tenret Tech’s primary address was allegedly Ward’s residential address.

Ward arranged all the purchases from Tenret Tech, and Vast Systems dba Tenret Tech, the lawsuit said; nothing KIPP DC paid Tenret Tech for was ever delivered, the lawsuit says.

When the school began investigating what had happened to the money, Ward said multiple times that he had been in contact with the company, the lawsuit said.

Ward spent the money on cars, real estate and sports memorabilia, the lawsuit said.

Suit filed

KIPP DC said it conducted its own review as well, and called the fraud “an isolated incident conducted by a single individual who took advantage of extraordinary circumstances.”

The school said that the money Ward spent fraudulently had come from the school’s reserves and a private grant, not from federal money.

The Department of Justice filed the suit Monday “to recover assets purchased using the stolen funds.” KIPP DC said it has already gotten $1 million back from its insurance, and “are optimistic the U.S. Department of Justice’s asset recovery process will return more than $800,000″ of the rest.

The charter school network is a subset of the district’s wider public school system, encompassing 20 schools and eight campuses where roughly 7,000 students are enrolled on a tuition-free basis, the lawsuit says, according to CBS.

Hyattsville responds

The City of Hyattsville released a statement later Tuesday that emphasized that the allegations pertain to Ward’s personal business dealings, and that “the City of Hyattsville is not implciated in any way.”

“City leadership would like to assure community members that there is a robust, multi-layered approval process in place for the expenditure of City funds and no elected official has access to the City’s cash account,” the statement continued.

They also directed members of the community to the 988 Crisis Lifeline for anyone who is struggling.

CBS News contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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