By: SNJ Today Staff
CAMDEN, N.J. – U.S. Attorneys Craig Carpenito, District of New Jersey, and William M. McSwain, Eastern District – Pennsylvania, has announced Our Lady of Lourdes Health Foundation and two related companies have agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle claims coming from their administration of federally funded community service grants according to a press release from the US Department of Justice.
The Foundation and related companies administered multiple grants funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)’s Senior Corps program from 2012 until 2017 including the Foster Grandparent Program which places seniors in school and community settings to work with youth with exceptional needs, and the Senior Companion Program, which places seniors in community and residential settings to assist seniors who have difficulty with tasks of daily living. Volunteers in these programs are given small hourly stipends, go through training and must clear criminal background checks.
Lourdes either failed to perform these criminal history checks or failed to keep records of doing so from 2014 until 2017. As a result, 46 individuals were permitted to work on an FGP or SCP project without any documentation that they received one or more of the required criminal history checks. When a monitoring visit was scheduled in 2017, Lourdes employees cut-and-pasted other background checks in an attempt to conceal this failure from CNCS officials.
Lourdes’ employees – including two program supervisors – falsely completed timesheets showing program participants working hours that were impossible, because the locations at which they were purportedly working were closed.
When the United States brought these issues to the attention of senior Lourdes management, Lourdes voluntarily relinquished the grants immediately and terminated all of the employees who had participated in the grant administration. Lourdes has actively cooperated with the United States since its senior management was advised of the issues in the grant programs. As part of this cooperation, it performed appropriate criminal history checks on all program participants and determined that all 46 individuals would have been permitted to participate in the programs had those checks been timely performed.
“Just as important as the work these volunteers do is the system that has been set up to ensure that they have been thoroughly vetted,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said in a press release. “Whether they failed to keep accurate records of the results of these criminal background checks – or just failed to do them – the results were the same. Our Lady of Lourdes potentially put their clients’ safety at risk. And billing for no-show employees cannot be tolerated, especially when taxpayer dollars are being spent.”
“Criminal history checks are a critical protection for the vulnerable populations with whom Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents work,” U.S. Attorney McSwain said in a statement. “Strict compliance with the requirements for these essential safeguards is the surest way to be sure that predators do not gain access to potential victims. And every federal contractor, including community service organizations, is required to honestly and openly report the work that its employees perform. Every dollar spent on an hour that was not really worked is one that is not available to support other community service efforts.
“This fraud deprived school children and senior citizens of promised services and jeopardized their safety with bogus criminal history checks for the volunteers who served them,” CNCS’s Inspector General Deborah J. Jeffrey said. “We hope that the substantial penalties included in this settlement will deter other grantees from similar misconduct. We commend our partners at the Department of Justice for their outstanding efforts in pursuing fraud against national service programs.”
U.S. Attorneys Carpenito and McSwain praised Lourdes’ work in addressing the issues in these programs: “We appreciate the seriousness with which Lourdes senior management has taken this issue and the prompt, aggressive remedial actions that they took to prevent further harm to CNCS programs and potential harm to vulnerable communities. We hope this settlement will serve as a message to other senior managers to be vigilant in overseeing government-funded programs and to ensure that their employees do not attempt to conceal any non-compliance.”
This investigation was conducted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as well as the CNCS Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica O’Neill of the District of New Jersey and Paul W. Kaufman and Veronica Finkelstein of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania handled the investigation and settlement.
The claims that were resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
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