The State of New York provides special education services to children of preschool age who have developmental disabilities. Once these children enter kindergarten, these services are usually provided by the public school system. Prior to that time, the state funds authorized contractors, who provide Pre-K special education services to qualifying students. An article in The New York Times details a special education contractor who took advantage of New York’s special education system as well as hundreds of students, in order to live a posh lifestyle.
The article states that a 47-year-old man contracted with the State of New York to provide services for preschool-age children, who had developmental disabilities, including autism. (Let me guess. He used the funds received from the government program for personal use instead of helping his students to overcome their disabilities.) Previous articles published about this case in The New York Times, allege that children with varying disabilities were lumped together and did not receive appropriate instruction or care related to their particular learning issues.
Public money intended for student instruction was used instead to build a three-story extravagant headquarters decorated with red carpets, marble floors and a chandelier. (That’s sounds like a positive learning environment.) The story reports that the company owner also bought a 5,000 square foot house on Long Island, plus a Mercedes he drove during his 20-minute commute into work. Additionally, he had a habit of placing family members on the company payroll, while hiring tutors for his own children and an employee to clean his home twice a week. (As you might guess, the children enrolled in his special education program were not getting the therapy they needed, including the ones who really didn’t have any disabilities at all.)
While in court, the fraudster read a statement admitting that over a period of eight years, he submitted false information regarding company costs incurred by some of his employees and contractors, including inflated charges for services provided. (I’ll say.) He also stated that he knew what he was doing was wrong. (Then why did he do it?) He is facing a prison sentence of 51 to 63 months and is required to pay $2.1 million in restitution to New York City’s Education Department. He is also required to forfeit an additional $1.9 million. (Way to go Judge. Hit him where it hurts.)
The State of New York’s Education Department is determined to prevent more corruption like this from occurring. The state recently enacted a law requiring all special education contractors to be audited by 2018. (This is a great step toward shutting down unethical contractors who take advantage of even the littlest citizens.) Hopefully, new measures like this one will go a long way toward making sure that service providers in the future are ethical and can be trusted with providing children with a brighter future.