By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, mgray@afro.com

Maryland residents who have been accused of manipulating the District of Columbia’s education system by illegally registering their children in D.C. Public Schools are continuing to face the wrath of Attorney General Karl Racine.

The Attorney General’s office filed suit last week alleging that a half dozen Maryland parents owe over $300,000 after lying about their residency in order to send their children to D.C. Public Schools.  The suit includes charges against three current or former District government employees as well.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is filing fraud charges against Maryland residents who sent their children to D.C. Public Schools. (Courtesy Photo)

The District is hoping to recover unpaid tuition, damages and fines because false statements were allegedly made, which allowed them to avoid nonresident tuition as their children were taking classes inside the jurisdiction of the nation’s capital.   These charges fall under the D.C. False Claims Act that allows the District to recover up to triple the amount owed in unpaid tuition.

However, parents and caregivers of D.C. children are allowed to enroll their students for free in city public and charter schools, but those who live outside the city must pay between $10,000 and $14,000 a year in tuition, depending on the student’s grade.  

“When nonresidents defraud District taxpayers and take seats in schools from District students, we hold them accountable,” Racine said in a prepared statement. “Over the past two years, my office has devoted more resources and hired new attorneys and investigators to fight residency fraud.”

The latest group of Maryland parents that have been accused in the most recent suit filed on June 6 include Danielle Lewis Anderson and Christopher D. Anderson from Upper Marlboro.  This family, according to the attorney general, sent their child to a D.C. public charter school and then to two public schools from 2008 to 2016. The District is seeking $137,492 in unpaid tuition, as well as damages and penalties

Claudine Nana Tchapchet, a former D.C. Public Schools employee from Accokeek and Habib Haviv Aziz Jah of Hyattsville are accused of sending their three children to District schools from 2011 to 2014 and face charges from the attorney general seeking up to $82,026 in fines.

Two Maryland residents who work in D.C. are facing allegations that could force them to pay more than $108,000 in fines also.  Michelle P. Osegueda-Williams and Donald Williams of Huntingtown are accused of sending their child to schools tuition-free for part of the 2004-2005 school year and from 2006 through 2013.

Osegueda-Williams is presently employed in D.C.’s Office of Unified Communications and Williams is a Metro employee. Ironically, they both previously worked for the D.C. Police Department.

  “With this work, we are sending a message to non-residents that breaking the law to send their children to District schools carries serious consequences,”  Racine’s statement also said.

The Attorney General’s office has filed more than 10 lawsuits against Maryland residents since December 2018, which could lead to over $1,000,000 in punitive damages if the parents are found guilty of fraud.  If successful, it would mark a comeback of sorts for the District’s Public School system after a previously mishandled residency fraud investigation involving the registration of students at the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts.

Ultimately, the results of that investigation were discredited because the report initially claimed that more than 25 percent of students at the premiere arts school were not actually District residents and improperly attended the school.  Once the revised report was issued one month later it concluded that more than two-thirds of the 219 students accused in the probe were wrongly accused.