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Press Release

Carleena Graham Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Federal Program Funding Recipient

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Vermont

Burlington, Vermont – The United States Attorney’s Office stated that Carleena Graham, 56, of Accokeek, Maryland, pleaded guilty today in United States District Court in Burlington to a charge of wire fraud. Chief U.S. District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford released Graham on conditions pending sentencing on December 15, 2023.

On May 31, 2023, the United States filed a one count information charging Graham with wire fraud. The defendant pleaded guilty to that charge today. According to the information, the victim, World Learning, is a non-profit global development and exchange organization that delivers educational and professional training programs, and people-to-people exchange opportunities around the world. World Learning had headquarters in Brattleboro, Vermont and Washington, D.C. World Learning received millions of dollars in federal funding from the United States Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development.

In 2014, World Learning hired Graham as the Director of Human Resources. She was subsequently promoted to Divisional Vice President of Human Resources and then to Vice President of Human Resources. Graham worked in World Learning’s Washington office. By reason of her positions of trust, Graham had access to a World Learning credit card that was to be used for human resources purposes.

At the time she was employed by World Learning, Graham also held positions at or had relationships with other non-profit and charitable organizations in the Washington, D.C. area (together the “third party organizations”). Beginning in approximately 2016 and continuing until the middle of 2022, Graham orchestrated a scheme to defraud World Learning of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As part of the scheme, Graham arranged for goods and services to be delivered to the third-party organizations, and then fraudulently arranged for World Learning to pay for these goods and services via electronic transfers of funds from its Vermont bank account. As part of the scheme, Graham falsified invoices submitted by vendors for payment of the goods and services to make them appear as though World Learning was the recipient of the goods and services. Graham often misused her access to World Learning’s credit cards to cause World Learning to pay the expenses incurred by the third-party organizations.

According to the information, World Learning suffered a fraud loss of approximately $425,000. As part of her plea agreement, Graham will consent at sentencing to the entry of a $425,000 forfeiture money judgment.

Graham faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to twice the gross loss to the victim. The actual sentence will be determined by Chief Judge Crawford with reference to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the United States Code. In the plea agreement, the parties estimated that Graham’s advisory sentencing range of imprisonment under the sentencing guidelines is likely to be 27-33 months.

This case was investigated by the Offices of Inspector General (OIG) of both the United States State Department and the Agency for International Development. “The Department of State and USAID Offices of Inspector General are committed to working with the Department of Justice to protect the people, programs, and financial resources of the Department of State and USAID. This case highlights the importance of our continued vigilance to ensure the money awarded to grant recipients is used for legitimate purposes and does not fall victim to theft, embezzlement, fraud, or misuse and to hold accountable those whose schemes compromise the work of the State Department and USAID.” said USAID OIG Acting Special Agent in Charge Eric del Valle and Department of State OIG Special Agent in Charge Chris Hileman.

Graham is represented by Walter Reynoso, Esq. of Florida and Christina Nolan, Esq. of Burlington, Vermont. The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples.


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Updated June 23, 2023

Asset Forfeiture
Financial Fraud