Two former Hurst tutoring company owners have been sentenced to five years in federal prison for defrauding the Fort Worth and Dallas school districts for services they never provided.
David Mbugua and Flori Mati, aka Florine Shaw, were ordered to prison on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn. In addition, they were ordered to pay $1,613,733 in restitution.
Both ex-owners, who were arrested in March 2014, pleaded guilty in October 2014 to one count of conspiracy to make false, fictitious or fraudulent claims.
For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, the Fort Worth and Dallas school districts received federal grants to offer programs that provided extra academic assistance, such as tutoring, for eligible students at no cost. These programs were federally funded by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 which provided the funds to state educational agencies which in turn distributed them to school districts in the form of sub-grants. School districts used part of the funds to establish the Supplemental Education Services (SES) programs.
Federal agents said Mati, a former Dallas school district teacher, and Mbugua formed four tutoring companies: Wise Links, LLC; Diverse Links, Inc.: Boost Academy and Avenue Academy. They operated all four companies from offices on West Bedford Euless Road in Hurst.
From September 2011 until the end of May 2013, Mbugua and Mati contacted the Fort Worth and Dallas school districts along with other Texas school districts to provide tutoring services under the SES program.
According to federal court documents, Mbugua and Mati created the four companies to hide their true ownership and mislead the Texas Education Agency into believing they were unrelated companies, obtaining more SES business than a single company could obtain from the various school districts.
In addition, Mati and Mbugua obtained as many student names as possible. Mati got student information by using her online teacher access to the Dallas school district. Mbugua, Mati and their employees also went door-to-door with gifts and prizes to induce students to sign up for their tutoring services. They even recruited a friend and her children to complete false and forged attendance sheets. Mati and Mbugua falsified documentation supporting their claims by inducing students to sign attendance logs for sessions they did not receive.
The two billed the Fort Worth and Dallas school districts $4,161,076 for services. About $3,120,807 of that total bill was for services not provided, according to court documents. The former owners wired some of the money to Kenya, federal agents said.
Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763