KANSAS CITY, MO (STL.News) – The owner of a Kansas City, Missouri, day care center was sentenced in federal court today for his role in a conspiracy to fraudulently receive more than $556,000 in federal benefits.
Sharif Karie, 41, of Olathe, Kan., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to four years and 10 months in federal prison without parole.
On Jan. 11, 2019, Karie was convicted at trial of participating in a conspiracy to steal government property, theft of government property, three counts of aggravated identity theft, three counts of wire fraud, 15 counts of money laundering, and six counts of mail fraud.
Karie, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was the owner and CEO of a day care center established under two businesses and two names for the same location, with the same key employees: KARIE Day Care Center, LLC, and Tima Child Care Center, LLC, at 1019 Admiral Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. Tima Child Care Center was established under false pretense with a straw owner, according to court documents, apparently to circumvent the state’s oversight efforts.
Co-defendant Sheri Beamon, 48, of Kansas City, Missouri, was the director of KARIE/Tima Childcare Center. Beamon pleaded guilty on Sept. 10, 2018, to her role in the conspiracy and will be sentenced on Aug. 15, 2019.
The day care centers submitted false childcare claims to the state of Missouri that fraudulently inflated the number of hours and children who actually attended the childcare centers. The conspiracy, which lasted from October 2013 to June 2016, resulted in a loss of $536,833 to the Missouri Department of Health and Social Services. The Child Care and Development Fund provides daycare subsidies for low-income families where the parents are employed or engaged in job training. Providers contract with the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and submit claims electronically.
Additionally, Karie committed fraud by misleading the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when he understated his income and assets. Karie received Section 8 assistance, which is funded by HUD. The fraud scheme resulted in a loss of more than $40,000 to the Housing Authority.
This case was the result of a nationwide sweep that targeted child care center fraud schemes. The national law enforcement operation in Missouri and six other states was the result of separate, but related, federal investigations into childcare center fraud that resulted in a loss of more than $1 million to the government.
Pole cameras, which were installed near the day care center, captured footage of the entrances and exits of the building during two time periods in 2015 and in 2016. Timesheets and billing records were reviewed and compared to the children seen on the pole cameras being dropped off and picked up from the daycare center during that time. There were significant discrepancies between the timesheets, claims submitted, and the pole camera footage. According to court documents, even the fire evacuation records were falsified indicating a fire drill was performed on a date when pole cameras were capturing footage of the entrance/exit of the day care and the planned evacuation route as provided to the state. The drill never took place.
At no time during its operation, according to court documents, did Karie Day Care Center meet the minimum health and safety standards for operation as established by Missouri statute and agreed to by contract. Tima Child Care Center was conceived as the state was in process of shutting down Karie Day Care Center for failure to comply with standards for health, safety, and record keeping. Had the state known that Karie was actually operating the business, according to court documents, a license would not have been approved.
The state conducted a compliance review of the daycare center’s billing for May 2014 and July 2014. The review found several attendance records missing. The review also identified 14 out of the 15 families with children at the center who had a parent employed there. With only two classrooms, it is improbable that parents were not caring for their own children. One of these parents reported that her job was contingent on having all of her children placed in care at KARIE Day Care Center so her child care would be paid by the state. According to court records, nearly all children enrolled for services were those of employees, in violation of state regulations. This same 2014 audit found several discrepancies on the time sheets submitted to the state.
Subsequent unannounced inspections at KARIE Day Care Center found the facility in violation of state regulations pertaining to child care licensing rules, including health and safety, staff ratios, and the maintaining of attendance records. Each of the inspections resulted in violation findings.