LIMA — The ringleader behind a day care fraud scam that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars received a tongue-lashing and four years in prison Monday.
Nekosha James-Mitchell, 37, will have the chance to apply for early release after serving six months, Judge Jeffrey Reed of Allen County Common Pleas Court said after issuing the sentence that was six years less than the minimum a prosecutor requested.
A jury convicted James-Mitchell on 13 criminal charges. She faced more than 30 years in prison on the charges, which included an organized crime charge, tampering with records, theft, forgery and tax charges.
Reed also ordered James-Mitchell pay back more than $31,000 she defrauded tax payers out of over a two-month period on which the investigation focused. The true and total amount James-Mitchell stole may never be known. She operated day care centers for at least five years and authorities said early on the true number approached $200,000 a year. The judge also fined her $50,000.
James-Mitchell refused to accept any responsibility for the crimes and continued to try to place the blame on women she said worked at her center and fraudulently used their children to receive state funding.
“I am sorry my day cares were used in such a way,” she said.
Reed told James-Mitchell the evidence pointed right at her.
“This isn’t managerial style or poor business,” he said.
Reed said the case boils down to greed and there is no excuse for stealing from taxpayers, especially when so many are struggling.
“Such a big lie,” Reed said.
The judge said he had to weigh various factors in sentencing James-Mitchell. Some believe she should be locked up forever but he said he had to fashion a sentence that punished James-Mitchell and deterred others. The law also allows a stiffer sentence for James-Mitchell for not accepting responsibility.
James-Mitchell ran All Together We Grow at 431 S. Prospect St., and Kosha’s Kinder Kare at 1137 Simon St. Reed ordered both homes forfeited to the state because both were used to facilitate the crimes.
Special Prosecutor Margaret Tomaro from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said James-Mitchell not only stole thousands of taxpayer dollars but lied about it in court, and had friends and family testify in court to try to cover for her.
James-Mitchell used other women and their children to apply for state funding claiming the children were at the day care centers when they were not. In exchange, James-Mitchell would pay the women for use of their children’s names, Tomaro said.
“She is the one who got the bulk of the money,” she said.
Additionally, Tomaro said, James-Mitchell’s crimes gave state programs that help low-income mothers a black eye.
“She abused the system that is supposed to help moms get off welfare and back to work,” Tomaro said.
In another day care fraud case, Tina Reeves, 32, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and placed on two years probation. She was ordered to pay $500 in restitution. She was convicted of attempted tamping with records and theft for allowing the names of her children to be used to fraudulently receive state funding.
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