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

OIG Investigation Uncovers Eligibility Flaw

The OIG, in conjunction with Serve Minnesota, determined that the Corporation’s process for manually verifying the eligibility status of its AmeriCorps members were inadequate, resulting in an undocumented immigrant fraudulently enrolling in a Minnesota Read AmeriCorps program and receiving $6,512.83 in Federal funds.  The OIG determined the former member provided both a fraudulent social security number and permanent resident card to enroll in the AmeriCorps program.  Grantee officials were alerted to the fraudulent identifications at the conclusion of the member’s service term, when the member declined his education award claiming he was in the country illegally and the documents he provided to enroll were fraudulent.

 

The OIG verified that the grantee had properly processed the member’s information in the Corporation’s AmeriCorps database.  After the member’s personal information was initially rejected the grantee obtained the required documents from the member and faxed them to the Corporation for manual verification, as required.  Subsequently, the grantee received approval from the Corporation to allow the member to serve.

 

The OIG investigation determined that the Corporation Trust does not have the appropriate resources to verify eligibility status.  The OIG interviewed Trust personnel and reviewed the process and learned the process was no different than the grantees process with no additional verification.  The approval relied on a Corporation employee making a determination based on the authenticity of scanned documents.

 

The OIG recommended that Corporation management implement a process for manually verifying the eligibility status of AmeriCorps members who were not verified during the Social Security Administration’s initial review such as subscribing to a verification database (Clear, Lexis-Nexis, etc.).  The process should encompass a means for Corporation Trust personnel to confirm whether the information submitted matches the individual enrolling in the program.  The United States Attorney’s Office declined prosecution citing that the member performed his AmeriCorps service.  The Department of Homeland Security declined to interview the former member to verify his immigration status.

 

Case ID:  2013-043

VISTA’s Assigned to Staff Positions

The OIG completed an investigation that determined a lack of oversight by a Corporation employee, resulted in Still Serving Veterans (SSV), Huntsville, AL, a sub-site for the American Legion Auxiliary, Washington, DC, violating 42 U.S.C. § 5044 (a) (Special Limitations) and 45 CFR 1216.1-3 (Non-displacement of Employed Workers).  Investigation revealed that approved VISTA Assignment Descriptions (VADs) submitted by SSV, allowed SSV to place four VISTA members in activities that would otherwise be performed by an employed worker.  VISTA members were serving in staff positions as the receptionist, office administrator, and IT support coordinators between grant years 2011 - 2013.  As a result $57,190.05 in Federal program funds were disbursed for disallowed VISTA services.

 

Corporation management reported that a review of the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps program VADs was conducted and four VADs contained language that could be construed as inappropriate VISTA service was discovered.  Management reported that it has taken administrative action to correct the VADs.

 

Case ID:  2013-041

Proactive Efforts Result in Corrective Actions

The OIG, in coordination with Volunteer Louisiana, completed a proactive review of The Presbytery of South Louisiana Project Homecoming AmeriCorps Program (Project Homecoming), a sub-recipient of a grant awarded by Volunteer Louisiana for grant year 2012-2013.  The review revealed Project Homecoming officials failed to conduct timely criminal background and National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR) checks, resulting in the improper disbursement of more than $127,000 in living allowances and $55,000 in education awards distributed to ineligible individuals.  The review further identified areas of concerns regarding the documentation of program costs in Project Homecoming’s fiscal system.

 

Based on Project Homecoming’s response, Volunteer Louisiana did not disallow the questioned living allowances or educations awards citing that the NSOPR and background checks were conducted late because of Hurricane Isaac.  Project Homecoming provided documentation concerning the questioned costs and instituted additional procedures to ensure the program cost identified by the OIG’s review would not reoccur in the future.  Corporation management concurred with the action taken.

 

Case ID: 2013-038

Corporation Employee Misuses Government Credit Card

The OIG determined that a Corporation employee misused her Government Travel Card, when she exceeded the allowable Government Travel Card ATM withdrawals allowing the employee to withdraw over $800 for personal use.  In addition, the employee submitted a travel voucher in which she claimed and received $120.92 in non-official mileage reimbursement.

 

Corporation management suspended the employee for a period of 14 days and required the employee to repay the $120.92 in travel funds she was not entitled to receive.  The employee had paid the advanced ATM withdrawals prior to the investigation.

 

Case ID 2013-037

AmeriCorps Grantee Converts Members into Staff Positions

The OIG determined that a sub-recipient of Federal program funds from the Nevada Volunteers Commission placed AmeriCorps members in staff positions and/or assigned members to perform staff responsibilities (e.g. clerical, receptionist, patient driver, janitorial services and other non-service related functions).  In accordance with the grant provisions the AmeriCorps members assigned to the WestCare Nevada AmeriCorps program were to provide services to local veterans and their families; however, the OIG investigation determined the majority of AmeriCorps members performed limited or no service to veterans and their families.  Additionally, a review of the members’ files disclosed missing documents and National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR) checks were not properly conducted.  Based on the OIG investigation the Nevada Volunteers Commission disallowed $20,088.22 in reimbursement funds.

 

Case ID: 2013-036

AmeriCorps Grantee Converts Members into Staff Positions

The OIG, in conjunction with Volunteer Florida, determined that a sub-recipient of Federal program funds placed AmeriCorps members in staff positions. During a routine site visit, Volunteer Florida officials discovered several WestCare Florida AmeriCorps members were assigned to serve in positions and/or were engaging in activities otherwise performed by an employee. 

 

The OIG reviewed WestCare’s AmeriCorps member files and interviewed several AmeriCorps members and substantiated the discrepancies identified by Volunteer Florida.  Based on the findings, Volunteer Florida disallowed $73,838.94 in reimbursements grant funds.  Additionally, as a result of Volunteer Florida’s proactive efforts in identifying and reporting discrepancies, the OIG initiated additional investigations into WestCare Foundation’s National Direct AmeriCorps program and the WestCare Nevada State AmeriCorps program.

 

Case ID:  2013-031

Former School Employee Pleads Guilty to Theft of AmeriCorps Funds

Ms. Welithia Fortune, former Administrative Assistant, Lee County School District, Bishopville, SC, embezzled $31,805.39 in Federal AmeriCorps program funds, when she submitted fraudulent bank account information to the South Carolina State Commission allowing her to divert the funds into her personal checking account. 

 

Ms. Fortune pled guilty to the theft and was sentenced to six years confinement (suspended), five years’ probation, and restitution of $31,805.39 plus fees and court costs. She was also debarred from doing business with the Federal Government for a period of three years. See System for Award Management (SAM) www.sam.gov

 

Case ID: 2011-042

Corporation Pursues Recovery of Funds Based on OIG Investigation

The OIG completed an investigation that revealed between August 2004 and July 2010, a  former Executive Director and VISTA Supervisor, VN Teamwork, Inc. (VNT), Houston, TX,   intentionally enrolled 17 of his employees in the VISTA program in order to supplement his employees’ salaries and benefits with Federal program funds.  His actions on behalf of VNT allowed VNT employees to receive $234,112.02 in Federal program funds to which they were not entitled.

The OIG coordinated this investigation with U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Texas, Houston, TX, who declined as a result of the death of Mr. Nguyen.  The case was subsequently referred to their Civil Division who also declined to pursue civil remedies, noting the Corporation has mechanisms to recover the funds administratively.

Corporation management issued a notice of debt collection to VNT for the reimbursement of $234,112.02 in disallowed costs.

Case ID: 2010-033

Maine Commission Cuts Ties with Low Performing AmeriCorps Grantee

The OIG received a Hotline allegation that an AmeriCorps Executive Director had misapplied AmeriCorps program funds resulting in the termination of the caller’s employment.  The caller also claimed that the program did not having sufficient funding to complete the program year.

We contacted personnel from the Maine Commission for Community Service and determined that the caller’s position was not an AmeriCorps funded staff position and that her dismissal was a direct result in the reduction in funding the agency received from its outside sources.  State Commission personnel conducted a site visit and reviewed the fiscal documents and interviewed the current members.  There was no evidence that program funds were mismanaged.  Maine State Commission personnel informed the OIG that it had not renewed the grantee’s grant due to their inability to obtain matching funds and too low enrollment.

 

Case ID: 2012-020

Illinois Grantee Cleared of Falsifying Time-sheets

The OIG completed a preliminary investigation into an anonymous complaint that program officials at an Illinois service site were providing its AmeriCorps members blank timesheets to sign.  In addition, the complainant claimed to have witnessed “some questionable activity” regarding the AmeriCorps program.  We referred this matter to Corporation management for verification and follow up.

Corporation management reported that the National Direct grantee had its personnel conduct an investigation into the allegations.  Personnel from the National Direct grantee conducted reviews of 25% of the current member’s timesheets and interviewed 10% of its current members concerning the process and activities performed by the members.  Based on the information obtained from the service site grantee, the National Direct officials determined that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations.

 

Case ID: 2012-018

Florida AmeriCorps Member Terminated After Falsifying Timesheets

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed a preliminary investigation into allegations reported by a Florida Program Manager who reported that one of their AmeriCorps members had falsified her timesheets.  

The Program Manager reported that the member was terminated and did not earn an education award.  We reviewed the documents submitted by the Program Manager, which raised concerns about the supervision and oversight of AmeriCorps members at the service sites.  We referred this matter to Corporation management for verification and follow up.

Corporation management reported that it had confirmed that the former member had not earned an education award.  Additionally, personnel from the Florida Commission will conduct a review of the grantee’s timesheet approval process to ensure there is proper oversight of its members.

 

Case ID: 2012-017

Arizona Commission Clears AmeriCorps Grantee of Displacement

The OIG received a Hotline call from an individual who claimed that her position was eliminated and her work was assigned to an AmeriCorps member.  We referred this matter to Corporation management for follow up.

Corporation management reported that the Arizona Commission conducted an investigation into the allegation.  Commission personal reported that they interviewed AmeriCorps members along with the sub-grantee employees.  Based on their interviews, Commission personnel determined that the complainant was released based on a reduction in program funding and that the individual’s workload was divided among the remaining employees.  Commission personnel reported that they found no evidence that AmeriCorps members displaced the complainant’s position. 

 

Case ID: 2012-016

Texas Commission Cleared AmeriCorps Grantee of Displacement

An anonymous Hotline complainant reported that program officials at a Texas grantee were using AmeriCorps members to fill staff positions.  We referred this matter to Corporation management for follow up.

Corporation management reported that the Texas Commission conducted an investigation 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 that there was no evidence that members were displacing teachers as alleged.  They also reported that the grant had expired and was not renewed.

 

Case ID: 2012-015

Washington Commission Found Allegations that an AmeriCorps Member was Improperly Serving were Unfounded

An anonymous Hotline complainant reported that a Washington State AmeriCorps member was receiving their AmeriCorps stipend while simultaneously working on two separate grants from two Federal agencies.  We referred this matter to Corporation management for follow up.

Corporation management reported that the Washington Commission conducted an investigation into the allegations.  Commission personnel reported that they had interviewed the AmeriCorps member and her supervisors.  They confirmed that she was a full-time AmeriCorps member and also worked part-time on another federal program.  Based on their review, Commission personnel determined that there was no evidence that the member had not performed her AmeriCorps service hours.  They based this on the facts that the member maintained separate timesheets, has different supervisors and work stations.

 

Case ID: 2012-014

Former Texas AmeriCorps Member to Repay Education Award for Fraudulent Timesheets

We received a Hotline call from a former AmeriCorps member who stated that he wanted to repay his education award claiming that he had falsified his AmeriCorps timesheets in order to receive the $1,000 education award.  We referred this matter to Corporation management for collection of the funds.

 Corporation management issued a debt collection letter to the individual for the recovery of the $1,000.

 

Case ID: 2012-010