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

Displacement at AmeriCorps Service Site Leads to Changes

CNCS-OIG received an anonymous hotline complaint that the National Direct AmeriCorps members serving at a Pasadena, CA, service site had performed duties commonly associated with a paid employee.

 

The CNCS-OIG investigation found no evidence to support allegations that members at this site had displaced workers, however the investigation did identify, (1) members had insufficient supervision which resulted in excessive idle time; (2) service site officials directed members to entice local residence to seek their health service needs at the service site clinics.

 

CNCS-OIG investigators expanded its scope of investigation and interviewed members and their supervisor at several other AmeriCorps service sites for the same grantee.  The investigation identified two members in which their assigned service violated 45 § CFR 2540.100, What restrictions govern the use of Corporation assistance, when they performed service that would have normally been performed by paid staff.

 

The grant Terms and Conditions provided for AmeriCorps members to be assigned to communities to improve healthcare for the medically underserved, increase financial literacy with regard to informed health care decisions and address barriers that affect the economically disadvantaged, older adults, individuals with disabilities and overweight children.  Although a majority of the member’s service performed was in accordance to the grant provisions, there were instances where other members engaged in service outside of the scope of the grant.

 

When CNCS-OIG informed the grantee of our the findings, the grantee took action to ensure members were performing appropriate service and provided additional training to the service sites involved.  The corrective actions taken by the grantee were approved by the CNCS program officer.

 

-Case ID: 2015-012

Allegations of Costs Mischarging (Unfounded)

Corporation management reported that they suspected a Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) grantee mischarged grant funds when it used funds from one CNCS grant as match to another CNCS grant. Additionally, management reported that it suspected that the RSVP grant staff utilized the wrong grant year funds to pay for staff termination/retirement payments.

 

CNCS-OIG found no evidence to substantiate the allegation that the grantee used grant funds as match to another CNCS grant.  The investigation also determined the grantee staff properly charged the employee’s termination/retirement payments to the proper grant year since the pay period ended in the first week of the new grant year.  CNCS Management reported it would review the grantee’s financial expenditure to ensure that it properly charged its grant expenses to the proper grant.

 

Case ID: 2015-024

AmeriCorps Site Supervisors Failed to Supervise Member’s Activity

Corporation Management informed the CNCS-OIG that a National Direct grantee reported an AmeriCorps member at their Tennessee site was suspected of falsifying his timesheets to earn an education award.

 

The CNCS-OIG investigation found no evidence to substantiate the allegation the member falsified his timesheets; however, the member did not earn an education award after the grantee claimed the member serviced some of the hours at an unapproved service site.  The investigation disclosed that due to staff turnover and lack of oversight the member’s supervisor failed to monitor member’s activity when the member changed service sites without approval.  The grantee revised its timesheet policy requiring its members to obtain a signature on their timesheets from the service site supervisor prior to grantee approval.

 

Case ID: 2015-022

AmeriCorps Members Serve From Their Residence Without Proper Supervision

The CNCS-OIG received a Hotline complaint from an anonymous source who claimed that a National Direct AmeriCorps grantee had AmeriCorps members serve from their residence while their supervisor was located in a different state.

 

The CNCS-OIG investigation disclosed evidence grantee officials violated the conditions of the AmeriCorps grant when it allowed seven members from grant years 2013 – 2015 to serve from their residence without proper supervision.  The investigation also found that members’ timesheet/service hours were recorded and approved based on an honor system.  CNCS management took immediate action and removed the current members serving from their residence.  CNCS management reported that it would ensure future members would not serve from their residence.

Allegations of Theft of Program Funds - Unfounded

CNCS-OIG received an allegation that AmeriCorps members serving with a Florida based grantee continued to receive their living allowance after they had completed the program.  The OIG investigation found that members who had completed their service hour requirement were still serving in that the program as the program was requiring the members to fulfill their full-year of service regardless if they met the service hour requirement early.  There was no evidence to corroborate the allegation.

 

-Case ID: 2015-023

Lack of Oversight Leads to Senior Corps Volunteers Serving with Improper National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) Checks

CNCS-OIG investigators discovered that a Senior Corps grantee improperly conducted NSOPW checks for the majority of their more than 230 Senior Corps volunteers between 2010 and 2014.  The Florida based grantee only conducted local or state checks versus the required national checks.  CNCS-OIG investigators also discovered that a CNCS State Program Officer’s lack of oversight during the monitoring of the Senior Corps project allowed Senior Corps volunteers to serve with incomplete NSOPW checks.  In addition, the State Program Officer failed to timely follow up on findings that grantee staff had improperly documented their hours on the CNCS grants.  CNCS-OIG informed CNCS management of the findings.

 

-Case ID: 2015-011

AmeriCorps Executive Director Misuses Agency Funds and Falsifies Loan Documents

Corporation management reported concerns that an AmeriCorps grantee may have mismanaged program funds.  CNCS-OIG found that the Executive Director of the Tennessee based non-profit agency misused agency funds for personal use with the knowledge of some board members.  This matter was referred to the local state law enforcement agency and local prosecutor.  There was no evidence that CNCS funds were misused or stolen.

 

The investigation also determined that the Executive Director knowingly directed two AmeriCorps members to falsify Certifications of Completion and Final Inspection documents, which were fraudulently used to secure the release of construction funds from a Federal Home Loan Bank, prior to the completion of the project(s).  This information was provided to the Federal Housing Finance Agency – OIG.

 

-Case ID: 2015-003

Texas OneStar Foundation (State Commission) Monitors AmeriCorps Grantee for Displacement

A Hotline complainant reported that program officials at a Texas grantee were using AmeriCorps members to fill staff positions.  CNCS-OIG referred this matter to the Texas State Commission for follow up.

 

Commission personnel conducted an inquiry into the allegation.  Commission personnel reported they conducted a review of the member’s position description and interviewed AmeriCorps and school staff personnel.  Based on their review, Commission personnel determined a weakness in the grantee’s policy and procedures regarding AmeriCorps members that members had been placed in staff roles for short periods of time during the momentary absence of the teacher.  There was no evidence to quantify the time members served in the staff rolls; however, Commission personnel placed the grantee on a corrective action plan and are monitoring their compliance.    

 

-Case ID: 2015-001

Executive Director Embezzles Federal Program Funds / Improper Criminal History Checks Result in Disallowed Costs / Former Commission Employee Debarred for Collusion, Conflict of Interest

A Hotline complaint alleged that the Executive Director of Luz Community Development Coalition (Luz), Las Vegas, NV, used AmeriCorps program funds to pay for a family vacation trip to Europe.  The investigation determined that the executive director used a credit card charged to the AmeriCorps grant to pay $8,451.08 of these personal expenses.

 

In the course of investigating these expenditures, investigators also discovered that Luz personnel improperly disbursed $169,500 in living allowances and certified education awards totaling $95,804 for individuals who were allowed to serve without the required checks of the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW).  Moreover, grantee staff presented investigators with altered NSOPW results to conceal their untimely completion.  Luz also paid $13,500 in living allowances to 10 members after they had left the program.

 

Further, due to a conflict of interest, an employee of the Nevada Volunteer Commission had falsely declared the program to be “in full compliance,” even though he learned during a site visit that the NSOPW checks had not been completed.  At the time of the site visit, the Commission employee was in employment discussions with Luz, and he subsequently joined its staff.

 

In March 2015, CNCS management disallowed $177,232 in grant costs, representing living allowances and education awards for those members who did not undergo NSOPW checks or where Luz personnel altered the date of the results.  Notwithstanding its written policy to disallow costs incurred prior to completion of NSOPW checks, CNCS did not disallow the costs related to the late-performed checks and did not address the $13,500 in living allowance overpayment.  CNCS debarred the former Executive Director for a period of three years and debarred the former Commission employee for one year.  In the interim, Luz had ceased operations. 

 

Recent Activity - On April 24, 2015, CNCS management informed the OIG that it has received additional documentation from the Nevada Volunteer Commission, which showed that five of the former members’ NSOPW checks were properly performed prior to service.  The Commission personnel also located one of the missing NSOPW checks.  Based on the documentation CNC management reduced the disallowed costs to $130,290.

 

 - Case ID: 2012-012

Education Award Treasury Checks Stolen, Forged and Negotiated

A CNCS manager notified OIG that unknown person(s) had stolen and negotiated 12 U.S. Government Treasury checks, totaling $6,692.47, representing education awards paid by the U.S. Treasury and mailed to a Miami Florida College to pay the education expenses of former AmeriCorps members.  An additional 55 checks from the same batch had apparently also been stolen; some of them have since been negotiated.  This matter was referred to the United States Secret Service, Miami, FL, for investigation.

 

– Case ID 2015-016

Agency Employee’s Lack of Oversight of VISTA Project Resulted in Waste of $700,000

Due to the carelessness of a CNCS State Program Specialist, the Corporation disbursed more than $700,000 in Federal funds for unallowable and/or otherwise impermissible service activities.  OIG found evidence that the employee provided inaccurate guidance that allowed VISTA members to serve in staff position(s).  Additionally, the employee approved 13 VISTA Assignment Descriptions (VADs) that impermissibly allowed the sponsor to assign VISTA members to perform direct service.  When members complained about these assignments, she made no meaningful effort to resolve their concerns and instead withheld information about the complaints from her supervisors and from the VISTA project site.  The employee was allowed to retire prior to imposition of disciplinary action.

 

Case ID: 2014-021

Improper Use of Federal Contracting Funds (Unfounded)

A Hotline complaint alleged that CNCS National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) officials violated Federal procurement regulations when they spent $675,000 to renovate a campus cafeteria at a for-profit university.  Our investigation disclosed that the information provided by the complainant was incomplete. The renovations added new kitchen units to be used by groups of NCCC members.   The Corporation had determined that installing kitchens and requiring members to prepare their own group meals would promote team work and reduce the overall food costs of the program.

 – Case ID: 2015-006

Allegation of Misuse of Federal Grant Funds/ Unallowable Service

A Hotline complaint alleged that an AmeriCorps Site Director at Notre Dame Mission Volunteers (NDMV) San Francisco, CA, had used AmeriCorps funds to pay for lavish dining for members, as well as the Director’s spouse. The complainant also reported that the Director authorized members to claim service hours for unallowable activities and for activities outside their AmeriCorps service.

Because NDMV’s grant was a fixed amount grant, no Federal funds were associated specifically with the meals and other program expenses. The grantee confirmed that the expenses recorded by the Site Director were consistent with its organizational policies and the program’s budget.

Further, the investigation found that the allegations regarding unallowable activities were inaccurate and based on incomplete information. CNCS-OIG concluded that the grantee operated within the purview of the AmeriCorps guidelines and found no evidence to substantiate the allegations. The results of the CNCS-OIG investigation were provided to CNCS management.

 

– Case ID: 2015-004

Fraudulent Timesheet Results in Denial of Education Award for AmeriCorps Member

The CNCS-OIG received a Hotline complainant alleging that a former AmeriCorps member of Change a Heart Franciscan Volunteer Program (Change a Heart), Pittsburgh, PA, (an AmeriCorps sub-grantee of Catholic Volunteer Network, Takoma Park, MD), submitted inflated AmeriCorps timesheets during his term of service. The complainant alleged that the former member was a part-time employee for ENEC and counted his employment hours towards his AmeriCorps service, which allowed him to earn an education award.

The CNCS-OIG investigation determined that the former member submitted inflated timesheets that allowed him to be eligible for an education award; however, Change of Heart officials never awarded him an education award because he violated Change a Heart and AmeriCorps policies. There was no financial loss to the Government.

 

– Case ID: 2015-002

Allegations of Prohibited Use of Social Innovation Fund Grants to Support Lobbying Efforts (Unfounded)

A Hotline complaint alleged that a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grantee used Federal funds for lobbying in support of legislation to ban smoking in public places. The complainant claimed to have witnessed grantee volunteers distributing flyers that urged citizens to vote for an anti-tobacco law in St. Joseph, Missouri.

CNCS-OIG investigators determined that the grantee had a robust program of compliance to avoid lobbying and was in fact using the grant funds to promote healthy lifestyles, including education regarding obesity, nutrition and smoking cessation. The lobbying activities were conducted by an independent organization with a similar name. Investigators found no evidence that the grant-funded organization engaged in lobbying activities.

 

 – Case ID: 2014-022