LIMA — A couple who ran a day care center pleaded guilty Wednesday to various charges accusing them of running an organized crime operation.
On the same day Darwin and Melissa Fuqua were in court, four other defendants in three separate cases were in court with no one receiving a prison sentence, only probation and sometimes a stern lecture.
The Fuquas appeared in court together to plead guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a second-degree felony; two counts of tampering with records, a third-degree felony; theft, a fifth-degree felony; and misdemeanor theft.
Special Prosecutor Margaret Tomaro recommended the Fuquas each receive six months in jail and each pay $5,500 restitution. The Fuquas are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 19.
Desmeen Spence Williams, 29, was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to pay $999 restitution, fined $1,000 and warned if she didn’t stay out of trouble she would face up to two years in prison or a 180-day jail sentence on another theft charge.
Williams pleaded guilty to complicity to forgery, a fifth-degree felony; complicity to theft, a fifth-degree felony; and complicity to misdemeanor theft.
Judge Jeffrey Reed blasted Williams telling her he didn’t believe she didn’t know what she was doing was wrong or that she didn’t know she was stealing taxpayer money.
“You knew what was going on. You had to,” Reed said. “Don’t continue to lie. Be honest.”
Williams said she thought Nekosha James-Mitchell was paying her out of her pocket for filing false day care center forms saying her children were at the centers.
Reed said it’s clear James-Mitchell was ripping off taxpayers and he wanted to know why Williams joined in.
“I know there are a lot of taxpayers offended by this,” Reed said.
Earlier in the day, James-Mitchell, convicted as the ringleader of the largest day care fraud operation, was in court with her new attorney, Ken Rexford, after she said she lost confidence in her trial attorney, John Scaccia, who was unsuccessful in defending her at a jury trial.
Reed denied James-Mitchell’s request to be released on bail pending future hearings. Her sentencing hearing was postponed while she was given the chance to make an argument for a new trial during a hearing Sept. 10. Her sentencing was rescheduled for Sept. 24.
Tomaro opposed letting James-Mitchell out on bail saying she is a risk to run especially because she faces a long prison sentence. Tomaro said she didn’t want to add to the total stolen from taxpayers by chasing James-Mitchell across country, if she ran.
Kalandra West, 22, was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to pay $400 restitution, perform 40 hours community service, and warned to stay out of trouble or face three years prison.
West pleaded guilty to attempted engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a third-degree felony; tampering with records, a third-degree felony; and misdemeanor theft. West worked for the day care operation ran by Angelique Suarez Williams.
Jacqueline Bishop was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to pay $1,500 restitution and maintain employment.
Bishop pleaded guilty to attempted engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a third-degree felony; and misdemeanor theft. She was connected to the Suarez Williams operation.
Day care fraud case
Operator of fraudulent day cares gets four years in prison