Feds: Detroit school official made $1.2M for phantom tutoring

(CNN)Federal investigators revealed another blow to Detroit Public Schools this week -- the system's former grant-development director has been charged on suspicion of obtaining nearly $1.3 million by lying about children's tutoring services.

Carolyn StarkeyDarden set up a company and allegedly ran a scheme between 2005 and 2012 in which she submitted fake invoices for tutoring services that were never provided to students, according to charges filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Michigan's Eastern District.
StarkeyDarden, 69, was charged Monday with federal program theft, for which she could receive up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted.
"Ms. StarkeyDarden cheated the students of Detroit Public Schools out of valuable resources by fraudulently billing for her company's services," said David P. Gelios, special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit. "In fact, Detroit students were cheated twice by this scheme.
    "Students that needed tutoring never received it, and money that could have been spent on other resources was paid to Ms. StarkeyDarden as part of her fraud scheme."
    Calls made by CNN to StarkeyDarden and her lawyer were not immediately returned Wednesday evening.
    The charge is not the first to be leveled this year against school officials in Michigan's most populous city.
    In March, 13 principals were charged with bribery in an alleged kickback scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
    A vendor paid bribes and kickbacks to the principals to allow their schools to be charged for supplies that were never delivered, authorities say.
    These charges are compounded by ongoing fights by the teachers for pay in the financially ailing school district, as well as deterioration in "hazardous" schools.
    In May, the 47,000 students in Detroit Public Schools went for days without their teachers after a "sick-out" protest was held by the educators, concerned that they would be unpaid by a school district that has $500 million of operating debt.
    After a series of complaints from teachers that unacceptable conditions persist in many areas, such as temperatures shifting to extremes and pulled-up warped floors going unreplaced, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation.