Employer Pleads Guilty to Stealing Funds for Job Assistance Administered by Atlanta Workforce Development Agency
Plea Follows $1.86 Million Settlement by City of Atlanta of Civil Claims that AWDA Failed to Adequately Oversee Federal Workforce Training Funds
ATLANTA – Kevin Edwards, a former political candidate and night club owner, entered a guilty plea today in federal court to stealing federal funds administered by the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency (AWDA).
In connection with the guilty plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced today that it has reached a civil settlement with the City of Atlanta, on behalf of the AWDA, which agreed to pay over $1.86 million to resolve allegations that AWDA violated the False Claims Act in its expenditure of Department of Labor grant funds for the federal On-the-Job Training (OJT) program.
“The resolution of these related cases ends a troubled chapter for the AWDA,” said U. S. Attorney John A. Horn. "AWDA exercised lax oversight over the OJT program, and this lack of controls set the stage for Edwards and his companies to abuse the program and steal funds that were intended to help citizens develop skills and find jobs."
“This City of Atlanta settlement resolves the allegations that the AWDA failed to ensure that U.S. Department of Labor funds were used to benefit those who qualified for the Department’s On-the-Job Training Program. We will continue to investigate allegations of DOL grant fraud, especially when Americans workers may be deprived of training and employment opportunities.” stated Rafiq Ahmad, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Atlanta Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.
According to United States Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: AWDA’s OJT program was funded with grants from the United States Department of Labor. The purpose of the OJT program is to increase employment by encouraging companies to hire employees that need additional job skills that the employer is willing to provide in exchange for wage reimbursement. The ultimate goal of the OJT program is for the employer to hire the participant at the end of the OJT contract period.
Edwards, a former budget analyst with the City of Atlanta, political candidate and nightclub owner, owned or controlled three companies in Atlanta between 2010 and 2012. During this three-year period, the three companies owned or controlled by Edwards received approximately $649,000 in OJT funds from the AWDA.
In participating in the OJT program, Edwards falsely represented to AWDA that his companies, Cronus Development, LLC (Cronus), CGE Construction and Consulting, Inc. (CGE), and The Elite Academy and Learning Center (Elite), would hire and train employees with the goal of full-time employment. Instead, Edwards failed to provide training programs, submitted forged and fraudulent wage reimbursement requests for employees that never worked for his companies, and paid workers only a fraction of the salary reported to AWDA. More specifically, instead of receiving training, OJT employees for CGE and Cronus reported that they did odd jobs, including cleaning up properties, yard work and working at one of Edwards’ nightclubs. Despite these shortcomings, Edwards received full payments from AWDA through the OJT program.
After the Department of Labor initiated its investigation and identified criminal violations by Edwards and his companies, investigators initiated an investigation of AWDA’s oversight and management of OJT funds. The investigation identified no additional criminal violations, but resulted in a civil investigation of allegations of inadequate oversight and compliance with reporting regulations designed to ensure that OJT funds were administered properly.
The civil settlement resolves the United States’ claims that, between 2010 and 2014, AWDA falsely certified compliance with Department of Labor regulations related to OJT. The government alleged that, contrary to these regulations, AWDA distributed funds to employers that enrolled existing employees instead of new job seekers, failed to provide any training to the OJT enrollees, and hired highly skilled employees, including individuals with professional licenses, who were not eligible for OJT. The government also alleged that AWDA failed to provide any of the services required by Department of Labor regulations to participants prior to enrolling them in OJT. The claims settled in the civil settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.
Assistant United States Attorney David A. O’Neal handled the civil investigation and Jeffrey A. Brown is prosecuting the criminal case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.