Day care shut down over $50K government benefits scam
Last Updated: 113 days ago
CINCINNATI - A day care was shut down after state investigators say they caught the owner billing the state more than $50,000 for children who weren't there.
"She had convinced some parents that they should leave the card with her," said Benjamin Johnson, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. "Once the provider has the card, the provider can swipe the card at any time," Johnson added.
State investigators say Annisha Dowell, owner of Annisha's Aunties Babies in Cincinnati, swiped an entire month's worth of electronic benefits cards in one two-hour window.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has shut down five Cincinnati area day care centers for fraudulent card swipes. In the case of Annisha's Aunties Babies, investigators first noticed something was wrong when a routine notice to the licensed address came back "return to sender."
An in-person visit by the licensing division of the agency revealed Dowell had moved out of that location months earlier. No children were at the Walnut Street location, but the state was receiving bills for child care service several months after an unrelated couple bought the house from Dowell's landlord.
"The provider had left one house, was providing child care services in the new home, but was still swiping as if children were coming to the old house and was getting paid for that," Johnson said.
Dowell has not been charged with a crime. Her license to operate a publicly-funded day care was revoked by the state and investigators are trying to recover the $50,000 in payments marked as fraud. The Hamilton County prosecutor is now investigating, WCPO reported.
Calls to Dowell's phones and messages sent to multiple email addresses in her name were unsuccessful.
Ohio went to the card a little more than three years ago. The state took over day care reimbursement and management from the counties. Before that, each county used its own system, most of them using paper records.
Now that the records are centralized and electronic, Job and Family Services says the agency is detecting more fraud.
"We don't have any reason to believe there's more fraud in the system than there was three or four years ago," Johnson said. "What we're doing is we're catching more of it, and we're catching it more quickly."
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