INVESTIGATIONS

The Investigations Section within the OIG is responsible for the detection and investigation of fraud, waste, and abuse within Corporation for National and Community Service programs and operations. Special Agents conduct various criminal, civil, and administrative investigations. Some of our criminal investigations are conducted in conjunction with other federal, state or local law enforcement agencies. Criminal investigations are presented to the U.S. Attorney and, in some cases, the local prosecutor, for criminal prosecution and/or civil recovery.

The Investigations Section also conducts fraud awareness briefings and provides a pamphlet entitled "OIG Investigations and You" which discusses the Corporation for National and Community Service employees' rights and responsibilities regarding investigations. Also, See; 

The Investigations Section also maintains the Fraud Hotline which can be used to report fraud, waste and abuse involving Corporation for National and Community Service programs and operations.

Closed Investigations

Closed Investigations

Senior Companion Program (SCP) Grantee and a Senior Official Debarred for a Period of Three Years for Willful Violation of a Statutory and Regulatory Provision and Engaging in Inappropriate Activities

Closed 2018-05-15

CNCS-OIG investigated allegations that a senior official at the Senior Community Outreach Services, Inc. (SCOS) Alamo, TX improperly managed aspects of its Senior Corps grant. An investigation by CNCS-OIG found that the SCOS senior official directed employees to falsify documents with the intent to double bill multiple grants (CNCS and HUD) and deceive grantors during compliance inspections and monitoring visits. Due to the poor state of SCOS’s financial records, CNCS-OIG, the CNCS Texas State Office, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) were unable to determine if CNCS or HUD funds were expended appropriately. In addition, CNCS-OIG determined SCOS:

  • Failed to Maintain Adequate Financial Records a violation of 2 CFR § 200.302 (a) and (b)(3), when it comingled various grant funds (public and private) without establishing an adequate accounting system to distinguish the sources of funding or explain how the funds were expended;
  • Violated 45 CFR § 2551.25, Perform Work Outside the Scope of the Grant when a SCOS senior official performed work on other grants but charged 100 percent of his time to the SCP grant; and
  • A senior official improperly charged portions of his salary to other grants, even though the salary was fully funded by the CNCS SCP grant, a violation of 45 CFR § 2551.25. 

Agency/Administrative Actions:
CNCS management concurred with our findings and issued a proposed termination of the SCP and FGP grants awarded to SCOS; however, SCOS voluntarily relinquished its SCP and FGP grants in lieu of termination. SCOS’s falsification of documents and poor financial records prevented any reliable analysis of its financial records. As a result, CNCS did not disallow any costs from the SCOS grants as it was unable to distinguish legitimate from improper expenditures.

AmeriCorps Member Exited from Program for Falsification of Timesheets and Violating Agency Policies

Closed 5/5/2018

The Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (Commission), Frankfort, KY, reported to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Office of Inspector General (OIG) that an AmeriCorps member (member) submitted fraudulent timesheets to the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV).

CNCS-OIG recommended that CNCS direct the Commission to conduct a review of KCADV’s AmeriCorps program to determine if the member’s action was an isolated incident or part of a systemic problem.

Agency/Administrative Actions
The Commission found no evidence of a systemic problem and determined the level of supervision and oversight of the AmeriCorps program by KCADV was adequate. The member was exited from the program for falsification of time sheets and violating KCADV policies.

Case ID 2018-014

Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) Grantee Required to Repay $143,278.47 for Cost Improperly Charged to the FGP Grant.

Closed 01-31-2018

CNCS-OIG investigated an allegation that volunteers and staff from Kansas Neurological Institute (KNI), Topeka, KS, Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) falsified timesheets and performed duties outside the scope of the FGP grant.

The investigation revealed the following findings:

KNI allowed KNI’s FGP official to spend up to 70 percent of her time performing non- FGP duties associated with her former KNI position, even though the grant required her to spend 100 percent of her time on KNI's FGP matters;

KNI violated 45 C.F.R. § 2552.25 What are a sponsor's administrative responsibilities?, subsection (c), when it allowed KNI’s FGP former project director (PD) to concurrently serve as the volunteer treasurer for the National Association of Foster Grandparent Program Directors (NAFGPD) while working as full-time director for KNI's FGP.  This was contrary to FGP regulations and KNI's FGP grant agreement, which required the sponsor to employ a project director full-time and dedicate 100 percent of their time managing KNI’s FGP grant;

KNI’s former PD submitted timesheets for the last five years that falsely claimed she spent 100 percent of her time working on FGP matters when in fact she spent approximately 75 percent of her time performing non-FGP duties; and

The former PD improperly authorized FGP volunteers to claim five hours of stipend payments during in-service training and/or recognition events even though the FGP volunteers were usually at the events for no more than three hours.

Agency/Administrative Actions
CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG’s findings and recommendations and required KNI to repay $143,278.47 for costs improperly charged to the FGP grant.

Case ID 2016-032

AmeriCorps Subgrantee Submitted False Claims and Directed AmeriCorps Members to Displace Staff

Closed 01/26/2018

CNCS-OIG investigated an allegation that a senior official at Ashby House, Salina, KS, improperly managed the AmeriCorps program. An investigation by CNCS-OIG and the Kansas Volunteer Commission (Commission), Topeka, KS, determined the senior official improperly utilized members to perform various duties outside the scope of the grant and improperly charged a printer to the grant.  In addition, the grantee violated:

45 C.F.R. § 2540.100 – Displacement, when the grantee improperly utilized AmeriCorps members (members) to perform various duties normally performed by Ashby House employees.

Agency/Administrative Actions
CNCS management and the Commission concurred with the CNCS-OIG findings and recommendations. The Commission immediately suspended Ashby House’s AmeriCorps grant and subsequently conducted a comprehensive review of the program. The Commission disallowed $7,656.66 for (1) expenses improperly charged to the grant, (2) displacement, (3) member service performed outside the scope of the grant, and (4) timesheet non-compliance.

Ashby House was allowed to complete its 2016-2017 grant under close supervision by the Commission. However, due to management concerns, the Commission elected not to renew Ashby House’s AmeriCorps grant application for 2017-2018.

Case ID: 2017-004

Retired Senior Volunteer Service Grantee Failed to Complete National Service Criminal History Check, Accurately Report the Number of Volunteers, Failed to Conduct Volunteer Station Assessments and Update the Volunteer Station Memorandum of Understanding

Closed 11/01/2017

CNCS-OIG investigated allegations that employees from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK, intentionally submitted inaccurate time and attendance records and inflated the number of RSVPs enrolled on a Progress Report to CNCS.

The investigation found no evidence to support the allegation that employees falsified or submitted inaccurate time and attendance records. However, the investigation concluded RSVP of Tulsa demonstrated a lack of due diligence in ensuring the RSVP grant was properly administered. RSVP of Tulsa violated:

  • 45 C.F.R. § 2540.204 when it failed to complete the National Service Criminal History Check (CHC) on a covered employee. Additionally, RSVP of Tulsa did not use the approved repository (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation) or received approval to use alternative search procedures to conduct the former employee’s background check;
  • 45 C.F.R. § 2553.25(g) when it intentionally did not accurately report the number of RSVP volunteers in the program. The executive director for RSVP Tulsa admitted to utilizing the number of participants for a Tai Chi class to be counted as RSVP volunteers. The seniors enrolled in the Tai Chi class were only participants and did not perform any service related activities; and
  • 45 C.F.R. § 2553.23 when it failed to update the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and conduct the required annual assessments of the volunteer stations. The executive director admitted RSVP of Tulsa did not perform reliable verification of the volunteer service hours. In addition, 20 percent of the MOU’s were expired.

Agency/Administrative Actions
CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG findings and took the following actions: (1) disallowed $1,500, in accordance with the CNCS disallowance matrix, for the period the former employee worked without a completed CHC; (2) instructed the RSVP of Tulsa on MOU requirements. Five MOUs were updated and the remaining expired MOUs were transitioned to inactive status; and (3) provided technical assistance related to enrollment of RSVP volunteers and appropriate service activities. RSVP of Tulsa was directed to revise the affected annual progress report (PPR) and exclude participants of the Tai Chi class from its volunteer counts throughout the report.

Case ID 2017-011

Grantee Submitted False Claims, Improperly Charged for Unallowable Match, and Directed AmeriCorps Members to Displace Staff.

Closed 10/30/2017

CNCS-OIG investigated an allegation that a senior official at the Center for People in Need (CFPIN), Lincoln, NE, improperly managed various aspects of its AmeriCorps program. An investigation by the CNCS-OIG and Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission (Commission) found that the subgrantee improperly charged the AmeriCorps grant for salaries of program staff who could not quantify time spent on the AmeriCorps program versus time spent on other programs. CFPIN also improperly charged the AmeriCorps grant for staff who were not assigned to the AmeriCorps program.  In addition, CNCS-OIG determined that CFPIN violated:

45 C.F.R. § 2540.100 – Non-displacement, when AmeriCorps members (members) were directed to perform work ordinarily performed by a paid employee. CFPIN operated an English as a Second Language (ESL) program with a grant from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), that included funding for paid instructors. When the paid instructors resigned, the grantee improperly utilized AmeriCorps members to teach ESL. CFPIN never hired replacement ESL instructors nor did it notify the Commission or USCIS about the use of members to teach ESL; and,

2 C.F.R. § 200.306 (b) - Billing for Unallowable Match, when CFPIN provided AmeriCorps members with donated items (food, clothing, merchandise) and then improperly claimed the value of those items as part of the non-Federal match charged to the AmeriCorps grant.

Agency/Administrative Actions:
CNCS management and the Commission concurred with the CNCS-OIG findings and recommendations. The Commission disallowed $47,063.25 in education awards for AmeriCorps members who improperly received a full or partial education award. After disallowing the match, the Commission found CFPIN still met the minimum match requirements for the AmeriCorps grant. The Commission declined to renew CFPIN’s AmeriCorps grants for subsequent grant years and reported the senior official was terminated.

Case ID: 2016-027

AmeriCorps Subgrantee Improperly Used Head Start Funds as Cost Match, Directed AmeriCorps Members to Displace Staff and Perform Service Outside the Scope of the Grant. In Addition, Two Members Admit to Submitting Fraudulent Timesheets.

Closed 10/18/2017

CNCS-OIG investigated allegations that the Center for Family Services (CFS), Camden, NJ, directed AmeriCorps members (members) to displace paid staff and that members were submitting fraudulent timesheets.  In addition, we reviewed CFS financial records to determine whether the federal funds it used as mandatory cost-match were authorized for that purpose.

The CNCS-OIG investigation found that CFS violated (1) the CFS AmeriCorps grant when it assigned members to perform services outside the scope of the grant, (2) 45 C.F.R. § 2540.100 (e) when it required members as part of their service to perform activities substantially similar to those already performed by an employee (teacher/assistant teacher), and (3) 45 C.F.R. § 2521.45 when it failed to comply with match requirements. In addition, two former members knowingly submitted fraudulent timesheets.

Interviews of members and staff revealed that CFS violated 45 C.F.R. § 2540.100 and AmeriCorps grant terms and conditions when they (1) routinely assigned members duties duplicated the role of a paid staff in the classroom and (2) performed service outside the scope of the grant. Based on the grant terms, members were to provide academic and social support to individual or small groups of children and thereby foster early literacy and social skills. However, the investigation found there was no clear distinction between staff or the members. CFS management and the site supervisors confirmed there was little to no difference between the assistant teacher duties and member’s service. In fact, the roles were so similar, members were frequently assigned to cover as the assistant teacher when staff were late or absent.

To meet the match requirements of the AmeriCorps grant, CFS used Head Start Program grant funds as the source of match.  However, Health and Human Services personnel revealed this was an unallowable use of Head Start grant funds.

Two members admitted to CNSC-OIG investigators that they inflated their services hours on their timesheets. The members claimed to have performed their service, but overstated on their timesheets the number of hours they actually served.

Agency/Administrative Actions:
CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG recommendation and took the following actions: (1) disallowed $140,885 in match funds, (2) directed the New Jersey Commission to take appropriate corrective actions to prevent members from performing activities inconsistent with and outside the scope of the grant agreement, and (3) both members who inflated their timesheets were exited from the program without an Education Award. In addition, the CFS’ 2017 grant was placed on hold until CFS presented evidence of adequate match funding.

Case ID 2016-026

Failure to Follow Proper Procedures Leads to Changes for Agency Personnel

Closed 9/29/2017

CNCS-OIG received an allegation that a CNCS State Program Officer may have falsified documents when she awarded a VISTA grant.

The investigation found no evidence that the employee falsified documents pertaining to the awarding of the VISTA grant; however, the employee failed to follow the VISTA Desk Reference guidelines when she failed to obtain the proper documents and verify the 501(c) (3) nonprofit status before awarding the VISTA grant.

The employee also did not exercise due diligence when she failed to verify that an executive director of the joint venture VISTA program was authorized to sign the VISTA grant application(s) on behalf of the legal entity.

Based on the investigation findings, CNCS-OIG recommended CNCS management add a certification block or a checklist showing that the required documents were obtained and/or verified in the grant management system prior to awarding or funding a grant. 

Agency/Administrative Actions:
The employee resigned her position.  CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG recommendations and implemented changes requiring employees to document the verification of the required documents prior to grant award.

Case ID: 2017-013

AmeriCorps Members Displaced Staff While Earning Education Award Leads to Disallowed Costs

Closed 9/5/2017

A Hotline caller alleged that staff at the YMCA of Cass and Clay County (YMCA), Fargo, ND, were using AmeriCorps members (members) to fill staff positions and perform duties unrelated to their AmeriCorps position descriptions. 

The CNCS-OIG investigation disclosed that the YMCA staff violated 45 CFR § 2540.100(f) Nondisplacement, when they knowingly allowed 13 members to fill vacant staff positions (daycare teachers/assistant teachers) with the YMCA’s School Age Learning Center (SLC) program for up to three months until the YMCA could hire suitable employees. 

Additionally, the YMCA staff violated 42 U.S.C. § 12602 when they improperly awarded Segal Education Awards to eight members whose portion of service hours consisted of staff displacement. 

The YMCA staff violated the terms and conditions of the AmeriCorps grant when a YMCA staff employee performed the duties of both the AmeriCorps program coordinator and AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator even though the grant application stated the YMCA would have separate employees performing the duties.  Additionally, both positions were charged to the grant as matching funds.

The YMCA also violated the terms and conditions of the AmeriCorps grant when they assigned members to the YMCA’s XERZONE so they could watch the children of patrons who utilized the YMCA’s facilities (exercise room, gym, pool, classes).  Members assigned to the YMCA’s XERZONE experienced a significant amount of idle time when children were not present.  During those idle times, the YMCA did not assign any productive service for the members. 

Agency/Administrative Actions:
CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG recommendations and took the following action: (1) disallowed and recouped $22,312 in stipend payments disbursed to thirteen members placed in staff positions; (2) disallowed and recouped $22, 237.86 in Segal Education Awards awarded to eight members whose hours included staff displacement; and (3) elevate the risk level of the North Dakota Commission due to the poor program management of the YMCA grant.  CNCS management declined to disallow any staff salary used as non-Federal match because the YMCA’s match contribution (50 percent of total project) exceeded the legally required match amount (38 percent of the total project). 

In addition to the aforementioned action by CNCS management, the North Dakota Commission implemented a corrective action plan to ensure the YMCA provided better training to the members and utilized the members more effectively.  

Case D: 2016-006

AmeriCorps Grantee Executive Director Found Guilty and Debarred for Submitting Fraudulent Timesheets

Closed 2017-08-28

 

A joint investigation with the Lordsburg New Mexico Police Department found that Ms. Mary Cristina Ortiz, Executive Director, The Wellness Coalition, Lordsburg, NM, defrauded the U.S. Government when she allowed two AmeriCorps members (Ms. Ortiz’ children) to submit timesheets that falsely claim they performed AmeriCorps service in Lordsburg, NM, while they attended college in another state.  Ms. Ortiz actions resulted in the loss of $16,500 in Federal funds.

On April, 13, 2017, Ms. Ortiz pled guilty to one count of fraud in violation of Article 16, § 30-16-6 New Mexico Statutes Annotated.   On May 16, 2017, the 6th Judicial District, Lordsburg, NM, accepted Ms. Ortiz’ plea and ordered  she: (1) serve three years of supervised probation; (2) pay $16,000 in restitution; (3) provide  a written public apology to the Lordsburg, NM, community; (4) and remain a law-abiding citizen. 

Agency/Administrative Action:  On August 14, 2017, as a result of the investigation, CNCS management debarred Ms. Ortiz for a period of three years.

 

Case ID: 2016-012

Allegations of Prohibited Activities (Attempt to Influence Legislation, Displacement and Service Outside the Scope of the Grant (Unfounded)

Closed 2017-08-10

 

CNCS-OIG investigators found no evidence to support a Hotline call alleging that AmeriCorps members with the Volunteers in Service to America, Student Veterans of America, Washington, DC, a service site of the American Legion Auxiliary, Indianapolis, IN., engaged in prohibited activities to influence proposed legislation related to the GI Bill or performed service unrelated to their official VISTA duties.

 

Case ID: 2017-010

Improper National Sex Offender Public Website Checks/Displacement and Improper Use of Members Leads to Disallowed Cost

Closed: 2017-07-25

A CNCS-OIG investigation found that AmeriCorps members with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS), Virginia Beach, VA, displaced staff and performed activities outside the scope of the grant.  The investigation was opened based on a hotline allegation.

The investigation also revealed that the current and former Program Directors (1) improperly disbursed Federal grant funds by assigning three members to perform service outside the scope of the grant; (2) violated 45 CFR § 2540.100(e) and (f) by assigning members to duplicate activity and displace staff positions of service site employees, and (3) violated 45 CFR § 2522.230 when they certified partial Education Awards for three members who did not meet the award requirements.  The former director also violated 45 CFR § 2540.204 by failing to conduct timely National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) checks on six members.

During its investigation, CNCS-OIG investigators also discovered the Virginia Office on Volunteerism and Community Service (Commission) failed to identify several instances of noncompliance, because it did not adequately monitor DVS.  The Commission also failed to follow the CNCS National Service Criminal History Checks (NSCHC) Interim Disallowance Guide regarding cost disallowance for NSCHCs and expanding the scope of file review. 

Agency/Administrative Action:
CNCS management reported they concurred with CNCS-OIG’s findings that DVS tasked members to serve outside the scope of the grant and would disallow living allowances and Education Awards for those three members totaling $24,193.50.  DVS also failed to conduct timely and complete NSOPW checks on six members and disallowed $9,000.  CNCS also directed the Commission to review all members’ files for NSCHC compliance and the service for some of DVS’s service sites.  CNCS already provided on-site training to the Commission and confirmed the Commission recently revised its monitoring policies and procedures.

Case ID: 2016-023

Allegation of Prohibited Activity – Unfounded

A CNCS-OIG investigation found no evidence that two AmeriCorps members assigned to a family planning center in Chicago, IL engaged in prohibited activity when they attended an abortion procedure. 

Acting on a hotline allegation prohibited activity, CNCS-OIG found that two AmeriCorps members were offered the opportunity to observe an abortion procedure, because one of the members was a future medical student interested in obstetrics and gynecology.  The members attended the procedure on June 14, 2017 after they clocked out from their AmeriCorps service and ensured that their attendance was not affiliated with their AmeriCorps enrollment. 

Agency/Administrative Action: None

Case ID: 2017-016

Closed 2017-07-24

AmeriCorps Members Displace Teachers in Classroom

The OIG received hotline allegations that AmeriCorps members assigned to the Summit Tutoring Corps (Summit), Redwood City, CA, were displacing staff. Members at Summit, a subgrantee of The Match Foundation Incorporated (Match Foundation) in Boston, MA, were assigned to provide intensive small group tutoring in math and reading to students in grades 6 through 12. The caller alleged that the Summit members alone managed Personalized Learning Time (PLT) classes, which a paid teacher previously lead.

CNCS-OIG investigators found Summit staff violated 45 CFR § 2540.100(f) Nondisplacement, when members were placed to manage PLT classes as part of their AmeriCorps service. The PLT classes were independent study periods that occurred several times a day. The classroom size ranged from 20 to 43 students from all grade levels and required one member to independently manage per session. The members were (1) required to maintain discipline in the class, (2) ensure the students were productive, and (3) proctor the Content Assessment Test. The members performed little to no tutoring during the PLT classes compared to their normal tutoring service.

Investigators also discovered that members at one school, as part of their AmeriCorps service, were directed to fill in as a receptionist after the receptionist was terminated.  In addition, members were also required to be perform lunch monitor duties; the members were required to maintain control and oversee the students during lunch. Summit also allowed members to count their lunch break as part of their AmeriCorps service hours.

Agency/Administrative Action:
CNCS management informed CNCS-OIG they concurred with the finding of displacement and disallowed service hours for the members that performed receptionist duties. CNCS management also disallowed service hours for the members who claimed hours during lunch in which they were not engaged with students.

CNCS management disagreed with the CNCS-OIG finding that members displaced teachers in the Personalized Learning Time (PLT). CNCS management reported that after reviewing the information provided by Summit, CNCS found that the assignment of a member to a PLT class did not result in staff displacement. The nature of the PLT class had changed to provide students an opportunity to receive direct tutoring from members, rather than being a time for self-directed student activity akin to a study hall when it was supervised by a teacher. They claimed that the Match Foundation program focused on delivering tutoring services to improve students’ academic achievement, but AmeriCorps members were also expected to be fully integrated into school operations, including supporting the school’s student behavioral expectations. Member participation in the PLT class contributes to the overall relationship between AmeriCorps member tutors and the students.

CNCS-OIG disagreed with CNCS management’s conclusion that the members placed in PLT classes did not displace teachers. As stated in 45 CFR § 2540.100(f)(6)(i) “A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform services or duties that have been performed by or were assigned to any (i) Presently employed worker”  The investigation discovered that prior to the arrival of the AmeriCorps members, as part of their duties, PLT classes were managed by the teachers. Once the members arrived, the PLT duties were removed from the teachers and given to the members as part of their AmeriCorps service.

Additionally, CNCS management claimed that Summit added direct tutoring from the members to the PLT classes. However, the teachers’ also “tutored” students when they helped them with homework assignments and prepared them for the assessment test during the PLT classes. Members would still be able to “be integrated into school operations, including supporting the school’s student behavioral expectations”, if they were preforming proper service.

Case ID: 2017-007

Corporation Contractor Fired for Violating Agency Policy and Leads to Policy Changes

Corporation management reported that an OIT contractor employee had connected a personal non-government laptop computer to the Corporation’s network without authorization.

 
A joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found no evidence that the contractor compromised the integrity of the Corporation’s network or accessed fiscal data or personal identifiable information (PII). The investigation did disclose that the contractor had violated a Corporation policy when he connected his personal laptop computer to the Corporation’s IT server. The contractor employee’s employment was terminated.
 
As a result of this investigation we conducted a limited review of a Corporation employee’s computer to determine if the individual used their Government issued computer inappropriately. Based on the results of this limited review, we did not observe any questionable use that would rise above the level of appropriate government computer “de minimis use” as described in OIT policy. Also the risk associated with potential exposure of sensitive Corporation information or PII was determined to be low because of the compensating information security controls that were established and implemented by Office of Information and Technology (OIT). However, we did take exception that the employee stored mission related information on drive that is not backed up as per Corporation policy. Although the files are protected through the use of encryption software that protects access to the local disk drive, the files themselves are placed at risk because they are not appropriately archived and stored on a back-up medium that could allow for file restoration in case the file was lost or deleted. OIT management informed us that to remediate the issue they planned to revise their Rules of Behavior to include the requirement to store all work documents on agency shared drives to ensure proper back up. OIT Senior Management also indicated that they would remind employees about saving mission related to files to shared or personal drives network drives.

 

Case ID: 2012-013