2 plead guilty to inflating attendance at federally funded youth program

2 plead guilty to inflating attendance at federally funded youth program

EL DORADO, AR (KSLA) - Two El Dorado, Ark., residents pleaded guilty this month to artificially inflating attendance at an after-school and summer program, resulting in more than $250,000 in overpayments.

The pleas were entered in U.S. District Court in El Dorado on Jan. 20 by Ronald Murphy, 70, and Jan. 14 by Domanique Robinson, 40, to 1 count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.

The first charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The second count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Court records show Murphy owned South West Economic Development Association, which served as a food vendor for the 2nd CHANCE AT LIFE after-school and summer program from late 2011 until June 2014. Robinson was the program director for the nonprofit that focused on helping at-risk youths from low-income households by making them self-reliant and productive citizens through education and mentoring.

2nd CHANCE was funded by a grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department managed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services. An investigation by the FBI and IRS revealed that fraudulently inflated claims of the number of children attending the program were submitted by Robinson to obtain federal funds to which 2nd CHANCE was not entitled, said Kenneth Elser, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

Robinson was responsible for receiving attendance sheets from each 2nd CHANCE location and submitting claims with attendance numbers to Arkansas Human Services for funding/reimbursement. Robinson, Murphy and others conspired to falsify the claims by inflating or fabricating the number of children in attendance.

Robinson submitted false claims until a federal search of 2nd CHANCE facilities in September 2014. The fraudulent claims resulted in overpayments in excess of $250,000 direct deposited by wire into 2nd CHANCE bank accounts. Robinson, Murphy and others personally benefited from the excess funds, Elser said.

Murphy's and Robinson's sentences will be determined by the court after reviewing factors including each's prior criminal record, if any, each one's role and the characteristics of the violations.

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