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Press Release

Woman Charged With Defrauding The School District of Philadelphia

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

A federal indictment was unsealed last Friday afternoon charging Patricia Cleary with wire fraud, mail fraud, social security fraud, aggravated identity theft and false statements to government agents, announced United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Michael T. Harpster, USPIS Inspector-In-Charge Daniel B. Brubaker, SSA OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Michael J. McGill, and City of Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland.


According to allegations contained in the indictment, Patricia Cleary falsely and fraudulently presented herself as the tutor for a relative with special needs with the City of Philadelphia School District.  Cleary used her maiden name, Patricia Goldstein, as the name for the fictitious tutor.  She submitted a false W-9 for the fictitious tutor using the social security number of another person and a retired Pennsylvania teacher’s credentials.  She prepared false invoices purportedly for tutoring services provided to a relative and submitted them to the School District from personal email accounts as well as an email account created for the fictitious tutor.  After the School District stopped issuing payment on the tutoring invoices and required verification of the tutor’s credentials, Cleary continued to perpetuate the fraud by threatening the School District with a lawsuit, falsely alleging that she hired a tutor, sent the tutor’s IRS form and teaching credentials to the School District, and gave money directly to the tutor for the tutoring services the School District refused to pay.  She also submitted false teaching certificates from two different states purportedly in the name of the fictitious tutor and fraudulently created a profile for the fictitious tutor in a system used by the School District to verify credentials, including identifying a stolen social security number of another person as belonging to the fictitious tutor.


As a result of her deceptive tactics, including the submission of false and fraudulent documents to the School District through emails and other documentation, Cleary received approximately $58,940.00 and attempted to receive approximately $33,090 from the School District to which she was not entitled.


“The defendant allegedly stole a victim’s identity and used it to defraud the Philadelphia School District by claiming that she was tutoring her special needs relative,” said United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen. “Our office will continue to prosecute scammers who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of members of our community who are entitled to benefit from valuable public programs that too often are targeted by venal criminals.”


“Stealing money from a cash-strapped school district, money meant to help people with special needs, is outrageous," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Harpster. "As alleged in the indictment, Cleary exploited a vulnerable family member to enrich herself - and when the school district grew suspicious and stopped sending checks, she brashly doubled down and threatened suit. The FBI is committed to investigating and holding responsible anyone fraudulently siphoning off public funds."


"Identify theft is a serious crime that effects millions of Americans each year, " This case is an example of how an identity thief can infiltrate an organization, pose as a legitimate tutor, and cause all of us to pay her an unearned salary,” said Daniel B Brubaker, Inspector in Charge of the Philadelphia Division of the US Postal Inspection Service.   “This case illustrates how far reaching the effects of identity theft are, and the depths these criminals will go to receive ill-gotten gains. We take these crimes very seriously and we're dedicated to holding criminals accountable when they use the mail in furtherance of their criminal schemes"


“Patricia Cleary allegedly stole money from the School District that was meant to educate our children, who deserve and need quality education," said Amy Kurland, Inspector General for the School District and City of Philadelphia. "This indictment sends a message that we will not tolerate theft and that we will continue to work to eliminate fraud and ensure integrity in the District.”


Cleary is charged with wire fraud and mail fraud, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Additionally, Cleary is charged with social security fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, and aggravated identity theft, which carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment that must run consecutive to any other sentence and a $250,000 fine.  Cleary also is charged with false statements to federal agents, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and the School District of Philadelphia Inspector General’s Office.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tomika N.S. Patterson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


Updated December 11, 2017