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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Former NYC Public School Teacher Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Falsely Claiming To Have Provided Federally-Funded Tutoring Services

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that SANDRA ALLEN, a former New York City public school teacher and tutor for TestQuest, Inc (“TestQuest”), an educational services company that provided tutoring services to public school children as part of a federally-funded program, pled guilty yesterday in Manhattan federal court for her role in a scheme to make it appear as if students had received after-school tutoring when, in fact, they had not, thereby enabling TestQuest to obtain federal funds to which it was not entitled. ALLEN pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Sandra Allen, a former public school teacher, exploited a federally-funded tutoring program meant to help underperforming schools and their students. She falsified records and induced students to lie so that TestQuest could steal substantial sums of federal funding. She will now pay the price for her criminal conduct.”

According to the Information and Superseding Information filed against ALLEN and statements made in related court proceedings:

From 2008 through 2011, the New York City Department of Education (“NYCDOE”) received funds from the federal government to pay for New York City’s Supplemental Educational Services program (“SES”), which included after-school tutoring for students attending underperforming public schools. NYCDOE entered into contracts with private entities and organizations to provide SES tutoring to public school students. Students were eligible to receive SES tutoring if they met certain criteria, such as attending a school that had been identified as needing improvement or restructuring for at least two years. Private entities contracted by NYCDOE to provide SES tutoring were required to have each student who attended a class sign a standard attendance form. The tutor was also required to sign the form, attesting to the fact that he or she provided SES tutoring to those students. Further, as a condition of getting paid for providing tutoring, the private entities were required to certify to the NYCDOE that their attendance records were “true and accurate.”

From 2008 through 2011, TestQuest contracted with NYCDOE to provide SES tutoring. TestQuest provided tutoring at various New York City public schools, including the Monroe Academy of Business and Law/High School of World Cultures (“Monroe”) and the Global Enterprise Academy/Christopher Columbus High School (“Columbus”). TestQuest received millions of dollars in federal funding for tutoring during this time period, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for purported tutoring at Monroe and Columbus alone.

From the 2008/2009 academic year through the 2010/2011 academic year, while working as an SES tutor for TestQuest, ALLEN participated in a scheme to falsify daily attendance sheets to make it appear as if more students had attended TestQuest’s SES classes than had actually attended. ALLEN directed students who had not attended any after-school tutoring to sign daily attendance sheets falsely claiming that they had, in fact, received such tutoring. ALLEN also signed certifications on the attendance sheets, falsely certifying that she had provided after-school tutoring to the students whose names appeared on the attendance sheet when, in fact, she had not.

In addition, during the 2008/2009 academic year, ALLEN enlisted four students to participate in the scheme. Specifically, she directed the four students to find other students to sign daily attendance sheets for SES classes that they had not attended. ALLEN purchased food for the four student “helpers” to reward them for their assistance in the scheme.

ALLEN, 53, of New York, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements. She faces a maximum sentence of five years and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on April 25, 2014 at 11:30 am. Civil charges that were previously filed against ALLEN for her role in the fraudulent billing scheme remain pending.

TestQuest previously agreed to pay the Government $1,725,000 in damages and penalties under the False Claims Act in connection with the billing scheme. TestQuest also agreed not to participate in any federal procurement or non-procurement transactions for a period of three years.

Mr. Bharara thanked the United States Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General for its extraordinary assistance in this case.

The criminal case is being handled by the Complex Frauds Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph P. Facciponti and Christopher B. Harwood are in charge of the prosecution. The civil case is being handled by Christopher B. Harwood of the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit.

U.S. v. TestQuest et al. Amended Complaint

Press Release Number: 
Updated May 18, 2015