Community Renewal Team Pays $362,000 to Settle False Claims Acts Allegations
United States Attorney John H. Durham and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen today announced that COMMUNITY RENEWAL TEAM and its president, LENA RODRIGUEZ, have entered into a civil settlement agreement with the United States and the State of Connecticut and have paid $362,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the federal and state False Claims Acts.
Community Renewal Team (“CRT”) is a Hartford-based community action agency that receives both federal and state grant funding. The majority of CRT’s funding has come from federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”). Federal funds are awarded to CRT directly and indirectly through various state agencies and, in some cases, federal funding is combined with state funding and allocated to CRT. Rodriguez has been the president of CRT since January 2006.
The United States and State of Connecticut allege that, from June 2009 through November 2010, Rodriguez directed that certain CRT employees work on a state funded grant program, called “Home Solutions,” while charging their time to federal grants funded by HHS, HUD and DOE, as well as other state grants passed through the Connecticut Department of Social Services. In addition, between October 2009 and September 2010, CRT improperly charged the time of a budget analyst to a Head Start grant when the employee was working on other unrelated programs. Finally, between June 2010 and April 2013, a CRT program manager for the HHS-funded Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program misappropriated $18,500 for her personal use.
To resolve the governments’ allegations under the federal and state False Claims Acts, CRT and Rodriguez have paid $362,000.
“Recipients of federal grants must adhere to the regulations applicable to those grants and manage federal funds efficiently,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “Failure to do so can result in significant consequences.”
“We take very seriously our responsibility to safeguard taxpayers by eliminating fraud in our public programs,” said Attorney General Jepsen, “and I appreciate the continued partnership with Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney to protect public funds.”
This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General.
The matter was handled within the U.S. Attorney’s Office by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ndidi N. Moses and Auditor Susan N. Spiegel. The Office of the Attorney General for the State of Connecticut was represented by Assistant Attorney General Christopher M. Haddad.