Woman accused of stealing $100,000 from city for special-education tutoring

Baltimore County woman, 40, submitted false invoices for three years

November 12, 2010|By Justin Fenton and Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

A 40-year-old Baltimore County woman has been indicted on charges that she billed the city school system for more than $100,000 in tutoring services that she never provided, the state prosecutor's office announced.

Prosecutors say that for three years, Tracy Denise Queen submitted false documentation and invoices to the school system for tutoring services for special-education students through her home-based company Queen's Mobile Education.

School officials terminated her contract last year, though they said Friday that they were only aware of problems concerning a 2009 contract that involved about $44,000.

Queen, who in an online resume says that she worked for 10 years overseeing special-education services for the city school system, is also charged with attempted theft for invoices she submitted that were denied.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh called her actions "reprehensible." He said one of his first cases involved a group of people who conspired to defraud the city school system out of more than $4 million. Fourteen people were charged in connection with that scheme, which included charges of bribery and billing the city for unnecessary work.

"Six years later, we're still here," Rohrbaugh said. "Where's our state legislature in making sure the money they appropriate is properly used? The city schools system only has … three auditors for a billion-dollar budget. Outrageous."

Michael Sarbanes, a spokesman for city schools, said school officials discovered the alleged fraudulent activity in November of last year, when one of the tutors in Queens' organization contacted the school system's special-education department about a billing issue.

When school officials looked into the billing problem, they discovered that the person who made the claim was not the person originally listed as providing the service, he said.

"We almost immediately terminated the contract with Ms. Queen, sought reimbursement and barred her company from operating any other contract," Sarbanes said.

He said the system's own investigation showed a violation of a contract that began in June 2009 and paid her $44,000. Queen had prior contracts with the system since 2006, but Sarbanes said school officials were unaware of any irregularities involving those contracts.

"Maybe [the state prosecutor's] investigation uncovered something that we didn't know about," Sarbanes said.

School officials said they were unable Friday to confirm Queen's claim that she previously worked for the system as a teacher and special-education manager.

Sarbanes said that there was no way the school system could have known about the alleged scheme until it caught a discrepancy, but he added that the special-education department is reviewing its policies.

"There's a ton of audits that go on in the school system … but what you have here is a stream of paperwork that on its face was legitimate, and then there was a discrepancy," he said. "Through our processes, we caught it, and we shut it down immediately."

Sarbanes said the school system hopes the investigation will lead to the recovery of the $44,000 in taxpayer funds.

Queen, of the 200 block of Bentley Hill Drive, was arrested by Maryland State Police. Court dates have not been set.

A Facebook page for her company, which had not been updated since May 2009, shows her in pictures with what appears to be group of students in classrooms. Rohrbaugh said Queen did provide "basic" tutoring but is being charged with billing the city for other services that she did not provide.

Her Facebook page says she provides literacy instruction for an hour and a half each day, four or five days a week. "The program ensures a balanced literacy program which has been proven to raise student reading levels an average of 1.3 grades if attended over 180 days," the site says.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

erica.green@baltsun.com



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