The Investigations Section within the OIG is responsible for the detection and investigation of fraud, waste, and abuse within AmeriCorps programs and operations. Special Agents conduct various criminal, civil, and administrative investigations. Some of our criminal investigations are conducted in conjunction with other federal, state or local law enforcement agencies. Criminal investigations are presented to the U.S. Attorney and, in some cases, the local prosecutor, for criminal prosecution and/or civil recovery.
The Investigations Section also conducts fraud awareness briefings and provides a pamphlet entitled "OIG Investigations and You" which discusses AmeriCorps employees rights and responsibilities regarding investigations. Also, See;
The Investigations Section also maintains the Fraud Hotline which can be used to report fraud, waste and abuse involving AmeriCorps programs and operations.
AmeriCorps Subgrantee Improperly Used Head Start Funds as Cost Match, Directed AmeriCorps Members to Displace Staff and Perform Service Outside the Scope of the Grant. In Addition, Two Members Admit to Submitting Fraudulent Timesheets.
CNCS-OIG investigated allegations that the Center for Family Services (CFS), Camden, NJ, directed AmeriCorps members (members) to displace paid staff and that members were submitting fraudulent timesheets. In addition, we reviewed CFS financial records to determine whether the federal funds it used as mandatory cost-match were authorized for that purpose.
The CNCS-OIG investigation found that CFS violated (1) the CFS AmeriCorps grant when it assigned members to perform services outside the scope of the grant, (2) 45 C.F.R. § 2540.100 (e) when it required members as part of their service to perform activities substantially similar to those already performed by an employee (teacher/assistant teacher), and (3) 45 C.F.R. § 2521.45 when it failed to comply with match requirements. In addition, two former members knowingly submitted fraudulent timesheets.
Interviews of members and staff revealed that CFS violated 45 C.F.R. § 2540.100 and AmeriCorps grant terms and conditions when they (1) routinely assigned members duties duplicated the role of a paid staff in the classroom and (2) performed service outside the scope of the grant. Based on the grant terms, members were to provide academic and social support to individual or small groups of children and thereby foster early literacy and social skills. However, the investigation found there was no clear distinction between staff or the members. CFS management and the site supervisors confirmed there was little to no difference between the assistant teacher duties and member’s service. In fact, the roles were so similar, members were frequently assigned to cover as the assistant teacher when staff were late or absent.
To meet the match requirements of the AmeriCorps grant, CFS used Head Start Program grant funds as the source of match. However, Health and Human Services personnel revealed this was an unallowable use of Head Start grant funds.
Two members admitted to CNSC-OIG investigators that they inflated their services hours on their timesheets. The members claimed to have performed their service, but overstated on their timesheets the number of hours they actually served.
CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG recommendation and took the following actions: (1) disallowed $140,885 in match funds, (2) directed the New Jersey Commission to take appropriate corrective actions to prevent members from performing activities inconsistent with and outside the scope of the grant agreement, and (3) both members who inflated their timesheets were exited from the program without an Education Award. In addition, the CFS’ 2017 grant was placed on hold until CFS presented evidence of adequate match funding.
Case ID 2016-026
Failure to Follow Proper Procedures Leads to Changes for Agency Personnel
CNCS-OIG received an allegation that a CNCS State Program Officer may have falsified documents when she awarded a VISTA grant.
The investigation found no evidence that the employee falsified documents pertaining to the awarding of the VISTA grant; however, the employee failed to follow the VISTA Desk Reference guidelines when she failed to obtain the proper documents and verify the 501(c) (3) nonprofit status before awarding the VISTA grant.
The employee also did not exercise due diligence when she failed to verify that an executive director of the joint venture VISTA program was authorized to sign the VISTA grant application(s) on behalf of the legal entity.
Based on the investigation findings, CNCS-OIG recommended CNCS management add a certification block or a checklist showing that the required documents were obtained and/or verified in the grant management system prior to awarding or funding a grant.
The employee resigned her position. CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG recommendations and implemented changes requiring employees to document the verification of the required documents prior to grant award.
Case ID: 2017-013
AmeriCorps Members Displaced Staff While Earning Education Award Leads to Disallowed Costs
A Hotline caller alleged that staff at the YMCA of Cass and Clay County (YMCA), Fargo, ND, were using AmeriCorps members (members) to fill staff positions and perform duties unrelated to their AmeriCorps position descriptions.
The CNCS-OIG investigation disclosed that the YMCA staff violated 45 CFR § 2540.100(f) Nondisplacement, when they knowingly allowed 13 members to fill vacant staff positions (daycare teachers/assistant teachers) with the YMCA’s School Age Learning Center (SLC) program for up to three months until the YMCA could hire suitable employees.
Additionally, the YMCA staff violated 42 U.S.C. § 12602 when they improperly awarded Segal Education Awards to eight members whose portion of service hours consisted of staff displacement.
The YMCA staff violated the terms and conditions of the AmeriCorps grant when a YMCA staff employee performed the duties of both the AmeriCorps program coordinator and AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator even though the grant application stated the YMCA would have separate employees performing the duties. Additionally, both positions were charged to the grant as matching funds.
The YMCA also violated the terms and conditions of the AmeriCorps grant when they assigned members to the YMCA’s XERZONE so they could watch the children of patrons who utilized the YMCA’s facilities (exercise room, gym, pool, classes). Members assigned to the YMCA’s XERZONE experienced a significant amount of idle time when children were not present. During those idle times, the YMCA did not assign any productive service for the members.
CNCS management concurred with CNCS-OIG recommendations and took the following action: (1) disallowed and recouped $22,312 in stipend payments disbursed to thirteen members placed in staff positions; (2) disallowed and recouped $22, 237.86 in Segal Education Awards awarded to eight members whose hours included staff displacement; and (3) elevate the risk level of the North Dakota Commission due to the poor program management of the YMCA grant. CNCS management declined to disallow any staff salary used as non-Federal match because the YMCA’s match contribution (50 percent of total project) exceeded the legally required match amount (38 percent of the total project).
In addition to the aforementioned action by CNCS management, the North Dakota Commission implemented a corrective action plan to ensure the YMCA provided better training to the members and utilized the members more effectively.
Case D: 2016-006
AmeriCorps Grantee Executive Director Found Guilty and Debarred for Submitting Fraudulent Timesheets
A joint investigation with the Lordsburg New Mexico Police Department found that Ms. Mary Cristina Ortiz, Executive Director, The Wellness Coalition, Lordsburg, NM, defrauded the U.S. Government when she allowed two AmeriCorps members (Ms. Ortiz’ children) to submit timesheets that falsely claim they performed AmeriCorps service in Lordsburg, NM, while they attended college in another state. Ms. Ortiz actions resulted in the loss of $16,500 in Federal funds.
On April, 13, 2017, Ms. Ortiz pled guilty to one count of fraud in violation of Article 16, § 30-16-6 New Mexico Statutes Annotated. On May 16, 2017, the 6th Judicial District, Lordsburg, NM, accepted Ms. Ortiz’ plea and ordered she: (1) serve three years of supervised probation; (2) pay $16,000 in restitution; (3) provide a written public apology to the Lordsburg, NM, community; (4) and remain a law-abiding citizen.
Agency/Administrative Action: On August 14, 2017, as a result of the investigation, CNCS management debarred Ms. Ortiz for a period of three years.
Case ID: 2016-012
Allegations of Prohibited Activities (Attempt to Influence Legislation, Displacement and Service Outside the Scope of the Grant (Unfounded)
CNCS-OIG investigators found no evidence to support a Hotline call alleging that AmeriCorps members with the Volunteers in Service to America, Student Veterans of America, Washington, DC, a service site of the American Legion Auxiliary, Indianapolis, IN., engaged in prohibited activities to influence proposed legislation related to the GI Bill or performed service unrelated to their official VISTA duties.
Case ID: 2017-010
Improper National Sex Offender Public Website Checks/Displacement and Improper Use of Members Leads to Disallowed Cost
A CNCS-OIG investigation found that AmeriCorps members with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS), Virginia Beach, VA, displaced staff and performed activities outside the scope of the grant. The investigation was opened based on a hotline allegation.
The investigation also revealed that the current and former Program Directors (1) improperly disbursed Federal grant funds by assigning three members to perform service outside the scope of the grant; (2) violated 45 CFR § 2540.100(e) and (f) by assigning members to duplicate activity and displace staff positions of service site employees, and (3) violated 45 CFR § 2522.230 when they certified partial Education Awards for three members who did not meet the award requirements. The former director also violated 45 CFR § 2540.204 by failing to conduct timely National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) checks on six members.
During its investigation, CNCS-OIG investigators also discovered the Virginia Office on Volunteerism and Community Service (Commission) failed to identify several instances of noncompliance, because it did not adequately monitor DVS. The Commission also failed to follow the CNCS National Service Criminal History Checks (NSCHC) Interim Disallowance Guide regarding cost disallowance for NSCHCs and expanding the scope of file review.
CNCS management reported they concurred with CNCS-OIG’s findings that DVS tasked members to serve outside the scope of the grant and would disallow living allowances and Education Awards for those three members totaling $24,193.50. DVS also failed to conduct timely and complete NSOPW checks on six members and disallowed $9,000. CNCS also directed the Commission to review all members’ files for NSCHC compliance and the service for some of DVS’s service sites. CNCS already provided on-site training to the Commission and confirmed the Commission recently revised its monitoring policies and procedures.
Case ID: 2016-023
Allegation of Prohibited Activity – Unfounded
A CNCS-OIG investigation found no evidence that two AmeriCorps members assigned to a family planning center in Chicago, IL engaged in prohibited activity when they attended an abortion procedure.
Acting on a hotline allegation prohibited activity, CNCS-OIG found that two AmeriCorps members were offered the opportunity to observe an abortion procedure, because one of the members was a future medical student interested in obstetrics and gynecology. The members attended the procedure on June 14, 2017 after they clocked out from their AmeriCorps service and ensured that their attendance was not affiliated with their AmeriCorps enrollment.
Agency/Administrative Action: None
Case ID: 2017-016
AmeriCorps Members Displace Teachers in Classroom
The OIG received hotline allegations that AmeriCorps members assigned to the Summit Tutoring Corps (Summit), Redwood City, CA, were displacing staff. Members at Summit, a subgrantee of The Match Foundation Incorporated (Match Foundation) in Boston, MA, were assigned to provide intensive small group tutoring in math and reading to students in grades 6 through 12. The caller alleged that the Summit members alone managed Personalized Learning Time (PLT) classes, which a paid teacher previously lead.
CNCS-OIG investigators found Summit staff violated 45 CFR § 2540.100(f) Nondisplacement, when members were placed to manage PLT classes as part of their AmeriCorps service. The PLT classes were independent study periods that occurred several times a day. The classroom size ranged from 20 to 43 students from all grade levels and required one member to independently manage per session. The members were (1) required to maintain discipline in the class, (2) ensure the students were productive, and (3) proctor the Content Assessment Test. The members performed little to no tutoring during the PLT classes compared to their normal tutoring service.
Investigators also discovered that members at one school, as part of their AmeriCorps service, were directed to fill in as a receptionist after the receptionist was terminated. In addition, members were also required to be perform lunch monitor duties; the members were required to maintain control and oversee the students during lunch. Summit also allowed members to count their lunch break as part of their AmeriCorps service hours.
CNCS management informed CNCS-OIG they concurred with the finding of displacement and disallowed service hours for the members that performed receptionist duties. CNCS management also disallowed service hours for the members who claimed hours during lunch in which they were not engaged with students.
CNCS management disagreed with the CNCS-OIG finding that members displaced teachers in the Personalized Learning Time (PLT). CNCS management reported that after reviewing the information provided by Summit, CNCS found that the assignment of a member to a PLT class did not result in staff displacement. The nature of the PLT class had changed to provide students an opportunity to receive direct tutoring from members, rather than being a time for self-directed student activity akin to a study hall when it was supervised by a teacher. They claimed that the Match Foundation program focused on delivering tutoring services to improve students’ academic achievement, but AmeriCorps members were also expected to be fully integrated into school operations, including supporting the school’s student behavioral expectations. Member participation in the PLT class contributes to the overall relationship between AmeriCorps member tutors and the students.
CNCS-OIG disagreed with CNCS management’s conclusion that the members placed in PLT classes did not displace teachers. As stated in 45 CFR § 2540.100(f)(6)(i) “A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform services or duties that have been performed by or were assigned to any (i) Presently employed worker” The investigation discovered that prior to the arrival of the AmeriCorps members, as part of their duties, PLT classes were managed by the teachers. Once the members arrived, the PLT duties were removed from the teachers and given to the members as part of their AmeriCorps service.
Additionally, CNCS management claimed that Summit added direct tutoring from the members to the PLT classes. However, the teachers’ also “tutored” students when they helped them with homework assignments and prepared them for the assessment test during the PLT classes. Members would still be able to “be integrated into school operations, including supporting the school’s student behavioral expectations”, if they were preforming proper service.
Case ID: 2017-007
Corporation Contractor Fired for Violating Agency Policy and Leads to Policy Changes
Corporation management reported that an OIT contractor employee had connected a personal non-government laptop computer to the Corporation’s network without authorization.
A joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found no evidence that the contractor compromised the integrity of the Corporation’s network or accessed fiscal data or personal identifiable information (PII). The investigation did disclose that the contractor had violated a Corporation policy when he connected his personal laptop computer to the Corporation’s IT server. The contractor employee’s employment was terminated.
As a result of this investigation we conducted a limited review of a Corporation employee’s computer to determine if the individual used their Government issued computer inappropriately. Based on the results of this limited review, we did not observe any questionable use that would rise above the level of appropriate government computer “de minimis use” as described in OIT policy. Also the risk associated with potential exposure of sensitive Corporation information or PII was determined to be low because of the compensating information security controls that were established and implemented by Office of Information and Technology (OIT). However, we did take exception that the employee stored mission related information on drive that is not backed up as per Corporation policy. Although the files are protected through the use of encryption software that protects access to the local disk drive, the files themselves are placed at risk because they are not appropriately archived and stored on a back-up medium that could allow for file restoration in case the file was lost or deleted. OIT management informed us that to remediate the issue they planned to revise their Rules of Behavior to include the requirement to store all work documents on agency shared drives to ensure proper back up. OIT Senior Management also indicated that they would remind employees about saving mission related to files to shared or personal drives network drives.
Case ID: 2012-013
Allegation of Ineligible Senior Corps Volunteer (Unsubstantiated) / Failure to Complete Background Checks (Founded) Case ID: 2017-008
This investigation was initiated after CNCS program personnel discovered during a compliance monitoring visit that a Senior Companion Program (SCP) volunteer in Delaware may have failed to report his prior sex offense convictions to the State of Delaware making him ineligible to serve.
CNCS management reported that the volunteer enrolled in the SCP on May 19, 2015; however, program officials did not conduct a National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) search until June 12, 2015. Program officials reviewed the NSOPW results and determined that none of the individuals listed was the volunteer. Both FBI and Delaware State Criminal History Checks (CHC) were initiated on March 27, 2015. The state check came back with negative results on April 10, 2015. Before the FBI results were returned in early September 2016, the volunteer resigned from the program on June 30, 2016. The FBI results found that the volunteer had three sexual offense convictions that occurred prior to 1982 in North Carolina.
The investigation found that the volunteer had a legal obligation to report his prior convictions to the State of Delaware to determine if he was required to register with the state’s public sex offender registry. Since there was no evidence to prove or disprove that the volunteer complied with the requirement, CNCS management disallowed the cost.
CNCS program personnel also found that the grantee, First State Community Action Agency, was noncompliant when it failed to conduct timely and/or complete NSOPWs and CHCs for numerous staff and volunteers. CNCS disallowed costs and required improvements to the grantee’s policies and training.
As a result of the compliance visit findings, CNCS management disallowed $3,884.24 for the alleged ineligible volunteer and $15,625 for the late or incomplete background checks. CNCS also required the grantee to update its staff and volunteer files.
Allegations of Unallowable Service Hours and Mileage Reimbursement (Unsubstantiated)
This investigation was initiated based on Hotline allegations from an individual who requested anonymity, who alleged that some members assigned to the California Tribal AmeriCorps Program had inflated their service hours and/or claimed mileage reimbursement from their place of residence to their service sites.
The investigation found insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations that members inflated their service hours and/or claimed mileage reimbursement from their place of residence to their service sites.
The results of the investigation were provided to the CNCS management for additional review during its monitoring reviews to ensure that the grantee adheres to the grant provisions.
Case ID: 2017-002
Allegations of Displacement Leads to Program Review
This investigation was initiated based on Hotline allegations from an anonymous complainant who reported staff displacement, inaccurate timekeeping and lack of supervision at the AmeriCorps program.
Investigators discovered that grantee members at two service sites were assigned duties which would ordinarily be performed by staff employees, a violation of 45 CFR § 2540.100(f) – Nondisplacement.
Investigators found no evidence to support the allegations of lack of supervision or fraudulent timesheets.
CNCS management reported that the New York Commission on National and Community Service (Commission) personnel looked into the CNCS-OIG findings and determined that the service provided by the members was not outside the scope of the grant or the members’ position description. The Commission reviewed the circumstances of the program and found that, in a few cases during the time period immediately following member initiation and while undergoing orientation, some members were not fully engaged in regular service. The Commission does not believe this was widespread or significant.
CNCS management reported that the intermittent performance of inappropriate service did not call into question the members living allowance, nor affect their education awards. Additionally, several of the members exited without an education award or were not eligible to earn a ward. Therefore, no funds were disallowed or education awards reduced.
Case ID: 2016-030
Improper National Sex Offender Public Website Checks Lead to Disallowed Costs/ CNCS Management Follow Up on Internal Control and Use of Volunteers Issues
A Hotline call alleged that Senior Corps management with the Central County United Way (CCUW), Hemet, CA, were inflating volunteer service hours; assigning volunteer service activities outside the scope of the grant and displacing staff.
The CNCS-OIG investigation found evidence that grantee management had some of its volunteers performing service outside the scope of the grant and displaced staff with volunteers. Additionally, CNCS-OIG investigators found that four members served in the Forster Grandparent Program before completing the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) check requirement. There was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove that volunteer timesheets were inflated due to the lack of adequate documentation.
CNCS management concurred that CCUW failed to conduct timely and complete NSOPW checks and disallowed $5,250 for the late NSOPW checks. Additionally, CNCS management reported it will conduct a site visit to determine if additional cost should be disallowed for the questionable service performed outside the scope of the grant; displacement; and review its internal controls concerning it timekeeping procedures.
Case ID: 2016-007
Improper National Sex Offender Public Website Checks Lead to Disallowed Costs
CNCS-OIG received Hotline allegations that AmeriCorps members assigned to the Detroit Parent Network (DPN) Project Graduation AmeriCorps Program, Detroit, MI, were assigned service activities outside the scope of the grant and had displaced DPN staff as employees.
Our investigation found evidence to support the allegation and found DPN had some Americorps members performing service outside the scope of the grant. Additionally, while on-site, CNCS-OIG investigators found that 19 members served in the AmeriCorps program prior to completing the required National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) check.
CNCS management concurred that some members had performed questionable service and DPN had allowed members to serve before completing the required NSOPW background check and has disallowed $28,000.
Case ID: 2016-001
Former AmeriCorps Grantee Finance Director Embezzled Non-CNCS Funds
The United States District Attorney’s Office, District of Rhode Island (USAO), Providence, RI, found that Mr. Charles Denno, former Finance Director, The Providence Plan (ProvPlan), Providence, RI, an AmeriCorps grantee, embezzled over $500,000, in agency funds, during a check writing and forgery scheme between 2012 and 2016.
The investigation conducted by the USAO and several Federal and state agencies determined no CNCS AmeriCorps grant funds were stolen as a result of Mr. Denno’s fraudulent activity.
Case ID: 2016-029