20 Individuals Indicted And Arrested For Defrauding The Department Of Education
SAN JUAN, P.R. – On February 17, 2016, a Federal grand jury returned a ninety-three count superseding indictment charging a total of 52 defendants, including 20 additional employees of Rocket Learning, LLC with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, theft of government money and property, and aggravated identity theft, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Department of Education-Office of Inspector General, the FBI and ICE-HSI are in charge of the investigation. The superseding indictment was unsealed earlier today.
As part of the conspiracy in the superseding indictment, the additional individuals indicted are either “teacher leaders” or “teachers” who provided tutoring services as employees of Rocket Learning, LLC. They participated in the scheme to submit fraudulent attendance information for payment by supervising, or participating in fraudulent biometric attendance entries, signing blank or false manual attendance forms, and/or signing false post-test forms indicating that students received the services when they did not.
The superseding indictment alleges one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, a violation of Title 18 United States Code, Sections 1349 and 1341 and twenty-six counts of mail fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, related to payments caused to be made via the U.S. Mail to Rocket Learning, Inc., for twenty six fraudulent invoices submitted from 2011 - 2013 to the Puerto Rico Department of Education; one count of theft of public money, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, related to the approximately $954,297.00 in Title I Federal Funds unlawfully received; and sixty-five counts of aggravated identity theft, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1), related to the use of means of identification of another person by using the name and signature of real students, in relation to the theft of public money charged in the indictment.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue its efforts to investigate and prosecute those who abuse their access to government funds, and fraudulently obtain moneys destined to help children in our communities,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
“This case reveals once again that there will always be those among us who will endeavor to steal money from even the most vulnerable of populations; in this case, our community’s children. Regrettably, nearly one million dollars in taxpayer funds was lost to a scheme by people willing to sacrifice the futures of the children this federal program was intended to benefit. The FBI and its law enforcement partners recognize the harm caused to Puerto Rico by those who divert public monies to their own use, and will continue to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of these crimes,” said Douglas A. Leff, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The defendants are:
- Maria Plaza- Teacher Leader at Hector I. Rivera School
- Wanda Figueroa Figueroa- Teacher Leader at Antonio Serrano Gonzalez School
- Aracelis Rivera Rivera- Teacher at Hector I. Rivera School
- Annette Coppin Bald- Teacher at Ines Maria Mendoza School
- Idalis Torres Torres Torres- Teacher at Nueva Superior de Loiza School
- Jessica Marrero Santana- Teacher at Eugenio Maria de Hostos School
- Keila Silva Sanchez - Teacher at Jesus T. Pinero School
- Monica Ortiz Alicea- Teacher at Antonia Saez Irizarry School
- Nayda Torres De Leon-Teacher at Maria Dolores Faria School
- Guillermo Morales Muñiz- Teacher at Francisco Matias Lugo School
- Raquel Roman Bonilla- Teacher at Joaquin Vazquez School
- Joel Torres Beltran- Teacher at Manuel Mendez Liciaga School
- Laurie Baerga Castro- Teacher at Adrin Torres Torres School
- Angel Velez Rosa- Teacher at Berwind Intermedia School
- Florentino Perez Gonzalez- Teacher at Berwind Intermedia School
- Ivelisse Vazquez Garcia- Teacher at Dr. Ramon Tellado School
- Maritza Rosario Medina- Teacher at Antonia Serrano Gonzalez School
- Ana Oben- Teacher at Luis Munoz Rivera School
- Mariam Candelaria- Teacher at Antonia Serrano Gonzalez School
- Margarita Arroyo Heredia- Teacher at Antonia Serrano Gonzalez School
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth A. Erbe. If found guilty, defendants are facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and two additional years for each corresponding aggravated identity theft count. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.