Puerto Rico tutoring agency charged in federal fraud case

AP News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2015 3:05 PM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Officials with a U.S. company that provides tutoring services at public schools in Puerto Rico have been charged in a nearly $1 million fraud case involving federal funds, authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said 31 directors and program managers at Rocket Learning LLC in Puerto Rico face 74 counts including theft of government money and property.

She said the agency received $34 million in federal funds from 2011 to 2013 for its Puerto Rico program and accused employees of submitting fake invoices to obtain more than $954,000 of that amount for personal benefit.

Rocket Learning officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities said the fraud occurred in part because officials bypassed a faulty biometric system and teachers would tell students to provide fake names.

Federal authorities warned that more arrests are expected as a result of the investigation and Puerto Rico Comptroller Yesmin Valdivieso said her office is investigating other allegations of fraud involving educational services across Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Justice Department last month notified Puerto Rico's governor that it was listing the U.S. territory as a high-risk grantee of federal funds, tightening reporting requirements.

Rocket Learning Center LLC serves some 14,000 students a year in the territory. Its website says it also operates in 13 U.S. states.

It is one of 33 such agencies in Puerto Rico that receive roughly $100 million a year total in federal funds.