LIMA — Five people were indicted by an Allen County grand jury, accused of running a fraudulent day care center out of two homes.The level of fraud is more than $170,000 a year and had gone on for years, said Lynn Shock, director of Allen County Job and Family Services.“I believe it was going on for a number of years. We just never had the resources until the attorney general got involved,” Shock said.Nekosha T. James-Mitchell, 37, of 519 Catalpa Ave., was charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, three counts of tampering with records, three counts of forgery, grand theft, theft, failure to file state income tax return and failure to remit state income taxes withheld from employees. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 38.5 years, according to court records.“She was milking the system for all its worth,” Shock said.Magnolia S. Clay, 28, and Brenda Brown, 35, were charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, complicity to forgery and two counts of complicity to theft, according to records.Two others have been charged but have not been served with the indictment, which is expected to be the same as Clay and Brown, officials said.The two centers, All Together We Grow at 431 S. Prospect St., and Kosha's Kinder Kare at 1137 Simon St., were run as home day care centers. James-Mitchell owns the home on Prospect Street and the other is owned by Jerry and Carol James, according to county auditor records.Allen County Job and Family Services Supervisor of Investigations Joe Patton said investigators conducted surveillance for a period of time and saw no children coming or going from the two locations. James-Mitchell was interviewed and told investigators children did come and go during the time of surveillance, he said.Officials said James-Mitchell set up the two home day care centers to take up to 12 children at each home. The state would pay an amount for each child at the center based on poverty guidelines and James-Mitchell paid the four others charged for allowing the names of their children to be used to get payment. The four others also were listed as employees at one of the two centers, Patton said. James-Mitchell has operated home day care centers since April 2004, Patton said.James-Mitchell also defrauded the state through a food program for children but local officials did not have an amount. Patton said there were food bills, for example, for breakfast when the child was not listed as arriving at the center until late afternoon. Investigators became aware of the case through tips to a hotline, Shock said. “We had clients who would call and say I'm not really taking my kids there,” Shock said. State agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation raided the homes Sept. 15, Patton said. James-Mitchell has been released from jail and has continued to run home day care operations out of the homes in question despite the criminal cases but Allen County has stopped paying her, Shock said. “We don't believe she has anymore kids now than she did the day before the raid, which was zero,” Shock said.Shock blasted the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services saying her agency has asked for help numerous times and never received it until Mike DeWine took over as attorney general. “We knew for years it had been going on and we told the state of Ohio it was going on and they turned their backs,” Shock said. “I do not think they cared.”Ohio Department of Job and Family Services spokeswoman Angela Terez said her agency was aware of the criminal case and has taken steps to terminate the provider agreement with James-Mitchell.“We do take fraud very seriously. We followed this investigation and we fully cooperated,” she said. Allen County has 19 registered home day care operations that can accept up to 12 children a day and 23 that can take up to six children a day. These home operations are different from full-sized day care centers, Patton said.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.
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