Aurora Man Convicted of Defrauding Non-Profit of More Than $880,000 Intended to Address Cleveland Food Desert
A Cleveland man was sentenced to prison for stealing more than $77,000 in federal grants designed to help Native Americans.
Robert Roche, 71, was sentenced to four months in prison followed by four months of home confinement by U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent. Roche previously pleaded guilty two counts of theft from programs receiving federal funds.
Roche was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $77,097.
“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.”
“Simply put, Mr. Roche stole taxpayer dollars that were intended to help needy children and families and today he was held accountable,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “The OIG will continue to be diligent in investigating and seeking prosecution of individuals who steal HHS grant funds in order to unjustly enrich themselves.”
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 and McGuire embezzled at least $183,703 from the SAMHSA grant. Roche converted approximately $77,097 of that money for his own personal use, according to court documents.
McGuire pleaded guilty to crimes related to his role in the conspiracy.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert J. Patton, Alex Abreu and Suzanna Koch following an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General.