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

Grant Reviewer Plagiarized Work Product

Closed 2016-11-15

 

CNCS management discovered a temporary CNCS employee hired to serve as a panel member for the 2016 AmeriCorps State and National Grant Review process submitted work products that appeared to have been plagiarized from her follow panel reviewers.  CNCS staff reported the temporary employee may have falsely certified her timesheets that included time she did not perform her assigned work.

 

The CNCS-OIG investigation found that the temporary employee in question submitted individual review forms to CNCS that were identical or almost identical to her follow panel reviewers.  The temporary employee admitted to CNCS-OIG investigators she copied portions of her fellow reviewers’ evaluations after completing her own work to reflect combined ideas/findings, if the other reviewers’ points were better or mentioned other ideas to support their consensus. There was insufficient evidence to prove that the temporary employee falsely certified her timesheets, and the temporary employee is no longer employed by CNCS.

 

Case ID: 2016-017

Grantee Debarred for Misuse of VISTA Members and Required to Repay $527,000 in Disallowed Costs

Closed 2016-11-30

 

Corporation management reported VISTA Project Sponsor Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN), Atlanta, GA, improperly utilized its VISTA members when it directed members to perform staff functions and changed clients for their services.

 

CNCS-OIG investigators found GCN staff misused their VISTAs and assigned them tasks unrelated to eradicating poverty.  GCN staff repeatedly and improperly assigned VISTAs to perform direct service projects and required them to perform staff functions.  This activity took place from at least 2009 until early 2014.

 

Interviews of VISTAs and GCN staff, along with a review of program documents by CNCS-OIG investigators revealed GCN officials violated (1) 45 CFR § 2540.100(f) (prohibits program participants from performing staff functions) when they tasked multiple VISTAs to perform staff functions and other administrative tasks; (2) 42 USC § 5044(c) (prohibits sponsors from receiving compensation for provision of VISTA service) when they collected fees for the VISTAs’ service; and (3) 42 USC § 12584(a)(8)(A) (prohibits national service participants from providing a direct benefit for a business organization for-profit) when VISTAs provided benefits to for-profit businesses that paid for memberships with GCN.

 

CNCS management issued a debt letter to GCN in the amount of $527,185 and debarred GCN for a period of two years.

 

Case ID: 2014-015

Improper Oversight Results in Fraudulent Timesheets / Members Serving from Home without Accountability of Service Performed

Closed 2016-11-21

 

A Hotline complainant reported that members serving with the St. Bernard Project (SBP), Wall Township, NJ, were unsupervised, falsely reporting service hours, and working in unsafe working conditions.

 

The CNCS-OIG investigation found that some members had falsified their timesheets when they reported inaccurate hours when they arrived late or departed early from their service site due to the lack of a site supervisor.  SBP site supervisors relied on the honor system to verify the hours served by the members since supervisors were not present daily at the construction service sites.  CNCS-OIG also discovered two members regularly performed service from home and SBP did not have a procedure to verify the hours served or the service preformed.  CNCS-OIG investigators observed that the allocation of members between the service sites and the SBP main office was disproportionate and did not align with the grant terms.  Investigators found no evidence that the members were serving in unsafe working conditions.

 

As a result of the CNCS-OIG investigation SBP immediately increased supervision at the construction service sites and implemented a requirement that the AmeriCorps program managers at all of the SBP operating sites conduct a monthly review of member timesheets to detect fraud or errors.  Additionally, SBP prohibited its members from routinely serving from home. CNCS acknowledged there were fewer members at the construction sites than originally planned, however believed the allocation of members aligned with the grant terms.

 

Case ID: 2016-014

AmeriCorps Members Declined to Engage in Political Activities for Grantee

Closed 2016-10-25

 

CNCS-OIG completed its investigation into Hotline allegations that AmeriCorps members assigned to the Martha O'Bryan Center (MOBC), Nashville, TN, a sub-grantee of the Volunteer Tennessee (Commission), Nashville, TN, may have engaged in prohibited activities when MOBC senior management sent an email to the MOBC staff and volunteers (including AmeriCorps members), that encouraged them to participate in a political campaign for a local school board election. 

 

CNCS-OIG investigators interviewed members who confirmed they received the e-mail encouraging them to campaign for select school board candidates; however, they declined the offer and did not participate in any political campaigning.  There was no evidence that members engaged in prohibited activity.

 

Case ID: 2016-028

Prohibited Political Activity Leads to Removal of VISTA Site

Closed 2016-10-14

 

This investigation was initiated based on a Hotline allegation concerning a VISTA member who may have engaged in political activities as part of his VISTA service.

 

CNCS-OIG completed its investigation into allegations that a VISTA assigned to Forest Grove VISTA Service to Southeast Oklahoma (SSEO), Idabel, OK, engaged in prohibited political activity and displacement as part of his VISTA service.

 

The CNCS-OIG investigation found that on at least one occasion the VISTA, serving at the Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy Association (ORWPA), Broken Bow, OK, site distributed political material (bumper stickers) involving a pending state legislation issue on the 2016 Oklahoma state ballot in violation of 45 CFR § 2556.780 (Prohibited Activities), while serving at a Labor Day event promoting water conservation.

 

CNCS management reported that ORWPA was terminated as a VISTA service site and the VISTA resigned. 

 

Case ID: 2016-031

Fraudulent Certification of Education Awards Leads to Debarment and Disallowed Costs

Closed 2016-10-13

 

This investigation was initiated based on a Hotline allegation that Ms. Meghan Olinger, former AmeriCorps Program Coordinator, Synergy, Education, and Empowerment of West Monroe (SEE), West Monroe, LA, falsely certified education awards for members who had not completed their service hours over the course of her tenure at SEE.

 

CNCS-OIG investigated the allegations of false certifications of Segal Education Awards by program officials by SEE, a sub-recipient of a grant awarded by CNCS to Volunteer Louisiana (Commission).  The investigation determined that Ms. Olinger falsely certified the Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for 97 AmeriCorps members.  Ms. Olinger’s actions allowed $117,202.12 in unearned education awards to be obligated by the CNCS National Service Trust.  The investigation also found that the former AmeriCorps Program Director of SEE was negligent in performing her duties as the program director and demonstrated a lack of oversight of the SEE AmeriCorps Program.  The Program Director’s negligence and lack of oversight allowed for the false certification of 97 Segal Education Awards.

 

A review of relevant documents and interviews of Ms. Olinger, the Program Director, and  SEE staff, and members revealed between 2012 to 2016, Ms. Olinger disregarded the required service hours and allowed ineligible members to receive an unearned education award.  During the time in question, the Program Director failed to perform any meaningful oversight of the SEE program, which allowed the mismanagement of the AmeriCorps program to go undetected for several years. 

 

CNCS management informed CNCS-OIG that it disallowed $117,202.12 for 97 falsely certified education awards and debarred Ms. Olinger for a period of two years.  The Commission also disallowed $37,512.84, for grant years 2012-2014, in match funds.

 

Case ID: 2016-011

Senior Corps Grantee Debarred After Scamming CNCS Grant Funds

Closed 2016-10-25

 

CNCS management reported possible fraud involving RSVP grantee TCU Community Partnership Inc. (TCU), Conyers, GA, after its management drew down $20,750 of Federal grant funds and failed to enroll any volunteers and fulfill the terms and conditions of the grant.

 

Investigation determined Ms. Luvina Beckley-Knight, CEO, M.H.M. and Associate Enterprise (M.H.M.), Glendora, CA, knowingly obtained a Federal grant utilizing TCU, a “virtual” non-profit organization, which Ms. Beckley-Knight used to funnel funds back to her for-profit business. 

 

In her grant application to CNCS, Ms. Beckley-Knight hid the relationship between M.H.M. and TCU in which TCU contracted with M.H.M. to provide management services under the grant.  After being awarded the Senior Corps grant, Ms. Beckley-Knight drew down funds, but was unable to support the cost or demonstrate the funds were authorized under the grant terms.  Additionally, Ms. Beckley-Knight directed the submission of fabricated IRS 990's to CNCS-OIG Investigators, claimed an individual was providing training to volunteers, when in fact he was not, and claimed she was paid with matching funds, when in fact she was paid by Federal grant funds.

 

The CNCS-OIG recommended CNCS recoup the $20,750, Ms. Beckley-Knight draw down from the TCU RSVP grant. CNCS-OIG also recommended debarment of M.H.M., TCU, and Ms. Beckley-Knight.

           

CNCS management concurred with the CNCS-OIG findings and required Ms. Beckley-Knight to repay the $20,750.  Additionally, CNCS management debarred M.H.M., TCU, and Ms. Beckley-Knight for a period of three years.

 

Case ID: 2015-009

Allegations of Improper Personnel/Hiring Practices (Unfounded)

Closed 5/10/16

 

A disappointed job competitor alleged that an individual selected for a senior (SES-equivalent) position overstated her qualifications and embellished her prior work experience and responsibilities, and that the hiring official (also SES-equivalent) failed to verify her prior employment.  The complainant also alleged that the same official promoted another CNCS employee without competition. 

 

CNCS-OIG investigators determined that the allegations were based on incomplete information and incorrect assumptions.  The selected official’s work history was accurate, and the hiring official followed the appropriate procedures, including verifying past employment.  The other employee had not in fact been promoted as alleged, but was instead reassigned within the same series and pay band.

 

Case ID: 2016-018

Former AmeriCorps Member Submitted Fraudulent Claim for Childcare Benefits

Closed 5/24/16

 

A former AmeriCorps member submitted fraudulent claims for childcare benefits after ending her service.  The United States Attorney’s Office declined criminal prosecution, and CNCS recouped $1,047 from the former member.

 

Case ID: 2016-013

Foster Grandparent Program Volunteer Arrested Allegations of Sexual Abuse of a Child (Unfounded)

Closed 6/29/16

 

CNCS management reported a Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) volunteer was arrested by Tooele Police Department, Tooele, UT, on allegations of sexual assault of a minor, while serving at a FGP school site.

 

Investigation by Tooele detectives determined eye witnesses observed no inappropriate behavior and found no evidence to support the allegation.  The local prosecutor dismissed the charges against the volunteer.

 

CNCS-OIG reviewed the grantee’s criminal background check and sexual offender checks procedures and found the grantee had followed the required procedures when the FGP volunteer began his service.

 

Case ID: 2016-015

VISTA Site Discontinued after Members Served Outside Scope of Grant and Performed Staff Duties

Closed 9/19/16

 

Acting on a Hotline complaint, CNCS-OIG investigators determined that VISTA participants at Community in Schools of Hernando County (CIS-Hernando), Brooksville, FL, were assigned direct service tasks beyond the scope of the grant, and displaced employees by performing staff functions.  The VISTAs were supposed to improve the conduct and academic performance of at-risk youth by recruiting volunteers to serve as tutors and mentors.  Instead, CIS-Hernando assigned them to collect and distribute food, clothing, and school supplies to students and their families.  One VISTA regularly served in the school office, answering phones, undertaking general office work and filing discipline reports.  Another VISTA was paid to advise an unrelated organization, without CIS-Hernando’s approval.

 

Overall, CIS-Hernando staff did not provide proper oversight to ensure that the VISTAs’ time was used for the intended purposes and consistent with program requirements.  Investigators also found project records to be in disarray, missing or incomplete.

 

As a result of this investigation, CIS-Florida did not renew its agreement to assign VISTAs to the Hernando site.  The agreement terminated on August 22, 2016.

 

Case ID: 2016-020

Investigation of Misappropriation Uncovers Unallowable Expenses and Other Violations of Grant Provisions

Closed 6/21/16

 

A Hotline complaint alleged that the director of an AmeriCorps program in Iowa misappropriated program funds to purchase groceries for her personal use.  The director could not provide a consistent explanation of her use of the program’s credit card. She was required to reimburse the costs and was terminated.  The grantee, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, violated the grant provisions by failing to notify CNCS-OIG or CNCS officials of the fraud allegations and conducting its own internal investigation.

 

In the course of this investigation, CNCS-OIG also found that the grantee had claimed improper costs as part of its match.  CNCS management therefore disallowed $10,847.57 of match costs claimed for mileage reimbursement, health care premiums and supplies.  The grantee was required to substitute allowable match expenses and adjusted its financial reports accordingly.

 

Case ID: 2015-018

Grant Lost Because Grantee Failed to Perform Criminal History Checks, Altered Documents and Made False Certifications

Closed 8/29/16

 

A joint investigation with PennSERVE: The Governor’s Office of Citizen Service, Harrisburg, PA, found that Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania (CISPA), Harrisburg, PA, failed to conduct critical criminal history checks (CHCs) and falsely certified to CNCS that it was in compliance with all CHC requirements during a Corporation-wide assessment and amnesty.  PennSERVE identified irregularities during a fiscal review, in which the reviewers also had difficulty verifying CISPA’s direct expenses and match costs.  The grantee thereafter altered documents to falsely create the appearance that it had conducted thorough and timely CHCs.  As a result, PennSERVE disallowed a total of $49,926.39, two-thirds of which related to CHC failures, and declined to renew the grant.

 

Case ID: 2015-026

Service Outside the Scope of Grant Leads to Disallowance of Grant Funds

Closed 9/19/16

 

A compliance review discovered that grantee Mid-Delta Community Consortium (MDCC), West Helena, AR, assigned AmeriCorps members a variety of tasks that were beyond the scope of its grant from the Arkansas Service Commission.  The grant was intended to assist economically disadvantaged residents in the Mid-Delta region in completing applications for prescription drug assistance.  Instead, members were assigned to serve in youth programs, a battered women’s shelter, food banks, farmers market/community gardens and a women’s prison.  Members also performed a variety of administrative functions, and one member displaced an employee by regularly substituting for a teacher during the lunch hour at a local center for disabled adults.  Another member who served vulnerable populations — school-age children and senior citizens — was allowed to serve for nine months with an incomplete National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) check. 

 

As a result of the investigation, the Commission disallowed $89,589 in living allowances for members who served outside the scope of the grant. CNCS management established a separate debt of $47,793 against MDCC to recoup improperly certified education awards and levied a penalty of $500 for allowing a member to serve vulnerable populations for nine months without a completed NSOPW check.

 

Case ID: 2015-027

Senior Corps Tribal Grantee Misused Program Funds and Volunteers, Failed to Check Criminal Histories

Closed 8/11/16

 

Alerted to allegations that Senior Corps grantee Great Lake Inter-Tribal Council, Lac du Flambeau, WI, misused program funds, CNCS-OIG investigators conducted a review in conjunction with an agency grant officer and a program officer.  This joint review found that the grantee had abused the funds awarded by CNCS in multiple ways.  Most significantly, the grantee incurred more than $90,000 for recognition items and entertainment, purchasing a variety of clothing, small appliances, housewares and other merchandise for volunteers.  “Recognition” refers to items and events to celebrate the contributions of volunteers to the community, such as special ceremonies, teas, breakfasts, luncheons and items of nominal value, such as pins and certificates.  Here, the nature of the items and the amounts spent were excessive and unreasonable.

 

The grantee also failed to conduct complete, timely checks of the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) for 23 volunteers, allowed certain volunteers to perform service activities outside the scope of the grant and charged the grant for a large quantity of office supplies purchased one day before the grant year ended. 

 

CNCS disallowed at total of $111,468.15, as a result of the investigation: $75,387.85 for excessive recognition costs; $18,820.30 for service that exceeded the scope of the grant; $14,750 for late or missing NSOPW checks; and $2,510 for office supplies not properly chargeable to the grant.  After providing technical assistance to help the grantee understand and comply with its obligations under the grant, CNCS concluded that the grantee was unable to meet its financial management and other responsibilities and therefore denied continued funding.

 

Case ID: 2016-005