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Columbus Man Charged with Fraud Involving Federally Funded Tutoring Program
Columbus – A federal grand jury has indicted Ashkir Ali, 45, of Columbus alleging that he defrauded the U.S. Department of Education’s Supplemental Education Services Program by billing the program for tutoring sessions that were never provided.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Thomas D. Utz, Jr., Special Agent in Charge for the North Central Region of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General and Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost announced the indictment which was unsealed today following Ali’s arrest yesterday at his place of business by an agent with the U.S. Department of Education.
“We must protect the integrity of all federally funded programs, such as those established to provide low-income families with educational services that help improve their lives,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said.
“By stealing from the SES Program, these ‘phantom tutors’ are stealing opportunities from the children who need them most,” Auditor Yost said. “Once again, I’m proud of the work we’ve done with our partners on the federal side to ensure that these education dollars go to children.”
Ali owned WAISS Network Technologies and in 2007 signed the first of four annual contracts with Columbus City Schools to provide tutoring for eligible students through the Supplemental Education Services program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The contract required WAISS to submit student attendance forms with the names of the students, the hours of tutoring services they received, the dates the services were provided and the names of the tutors providing services. Student attendance forms had to be signed by tutors and the student’s parents.
Allegations surfaced of possible misconduct by providers of the Supplemental Education Services Program in 2011. A special audit of the Columbus City School District began in June 2011 after a request was made by Superintendent Gene Harris. The Ali case is the first prosecution to result from the Auditor of State’s special audit, which is ongoing.
The indictment alleges that Ali submitted more than $50,000 in fraudulent claims. The indictment alleges that Ali submitted forms with forged tutor and parent signatures and submitted written claims for payments which falsely represented the number of tutoring hours WAISS provided.
Ali is charged with two counts of making false statements, each punishable by up to five years in prison, and two counts of aggravated identity theft, each of which is punishable by two years to be served consecutive to any other sentence.
Ali appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King on March 12 and was released on his own recognizance. Future court appearances will be scheduled by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr., who is presiding over the case.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General and State Auditor Yost’s Office, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Affeldt who is representing the United States in this case.
An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.