11 people were caught red-handed this week in an $18 million scam involving “more than 35 day-care centers in Brooklyn and Staten Island run by a group that called itself the Congregation,” according to The New York Post.
Liudmila Umarov and three others bribed seven city employees who “issued permits for substandard centers, steered children into the Congregation’s programs and expedited payments from the $405 million-a-year voucher program” in exchange for cash and jewelry.
Six of the centers being run by the Congregation have been closed due to health and safety violations, among them “open bottles of booze stashed in a refrigerator right next to children’s lunches.” (To be fair, there are often open bottles of chardonnay near foods my daughter will eat for lunch. But I only drink after hours. If you’re taking shots of vodka at naptime, there might be a problem.)
The Village Voice reports, “A crooked Human Resources Administration employee, Leonid Gutnik, allegedly steered kids from homeless shelters the ring’s way; he also perfected a scheme to route the names and specs for day care assistance-eligible New Yorkers so that their kids’ names could be listed on the Congregation’s rosters, even though the children weren’t present.”
How sad, in a time when parents are dropping out of the workforce because they can’t afford childcare, that people are so eager to profit off the very system meant to help the poor. I suppose it’s naive to be shocked that so many city employees were willing to accept bribes, but thank goodness for the Department of Health employees who finally said nyet.