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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cleveland man pleads guilty to stealing $77,000 in federal grants designed to help Native Americans

A Cleveland man pleaded guilty to stealing more than $77,000 in federal grants designed to help Native Americans.

Robert Roche, 71, pleaded guilty two counts of theft from programs receiving federal funds. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 29.

“This defendant stole from taxpayers and betrayed the Native American families he purported to help,” U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said. “He took tens of thousands of dollars designated for mental health and wellness programs and put the money in his own pockets.”

“Mr. Roche stole federal grant funds that were intended to assist tribal and urban American Indian communities with the tools and resources needed to plan and design coordinated systems of care to support mental health and wellness for children, youth and families,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General - Chicago Region. “Mr. Roche's actions deprived needy families of precious resources and squandered vital taxpayer dollars. The OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify, investigate and seek prosecution of individuals who seek to defraud HHS programs.”

Roche served as executive director of the American Indian Education Center (AIEC), a Parma-based nonprofit established in 1995 to support Native American causes in Northeast Ohio, according to court documents.

Craig McGuire operated McGuire & Associates LLC, a company that wrote grant applications and provided evaluation services. Roche entered into an agreement with McGuire & Associates in April 2011 to draft grant proposals on behalf of the AIEC. Later that year, McGuire submitted an application on behalf of the AIEC to receive a Circle of Care grant, offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant was designed to provide Native American communities with the tools and resources to design programs to support mental health and wellness for children and families, according to court documents.

The AIEC’s application contained numerous false statements including: misrepresenting the date the AIEC was established; falsely claiming the AIEC had a wellness department and a “Positive Paths” afterschool program serving 500 children when no such department or program existed; fraudulently listing people the AIEC allegedly employed and mischaracterizing the description of the AIEC’s building and alleged physical amenities, according to court documents.

SAMHSA awarded the AIEC a Circle of Care grant on Sept. 1, 2012 of approximately $302,340 for FY 2012. On June 26, 2012, SAMHSA awarded the second year of a Circle of Care grant in the amount of $308,040 for FY 2013, according to court documents.

The AIEC received approximately $482,766 from SAMHSA from 2011 through 2013. The AIEC did not receive full funding because SAMHSA placed it in “high risk” status, according to court documents.

Roche paid himself through AIEC on several occasions as a project coordinator for the Circle of Care project. Roche was not identified as the project coordinator on the grant application and such payments were precluded by regulation, according to court documents.

Roche converted approximately $77,097 of that money for his own personal use, according to court documents.

McGuire pleaded guilty to theft and is awaiting sentencing.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert J. Patton and Alejandro A. Abreu following an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Mike Tobin 216.622.3651 michael.tobin@usdoj.gov
Updated May 16, 2018