CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago area day care owner is now accused of pocketing millions of dollars meant for children and using it to buy a luxury car and a fancy home.
Her southwest suburban home in Mokena reflects the life of luxury, but the Aleesha McDowell has now been arrested by federal agents. A 14-page indictment accuses her of fraud, saying she stole from a government agency to help pay a $250,000 down payment on the house and an $85,000 payment on a 2017 Bentley.
Prosecutors say it was all part of an 8-year, $6 million scheme.
Paperwork says McDowell, the accused ring leader, owned multiple day cares including A&A Kiddy Kollege in Calumet City and Kreative Kidz Academy in Chicago. Prosecutors say she and staffers would have parents falsify documents to send to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low income families afford child care.
Fake information included clients’ employment, income and enrollment in education programs. The goal was that more families could be approved for subsidy payments that would roll in — to staffers’ pockets.
This went on, according to paperwork, for at least eight years.
But how could it happen for so long? The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says Mcowel has had licensing since 2007. They claim to have background checks. But the Illinois Department of Human Services oversees the money. IDHS would only say it has zero tolerance for fraud, and if fraud is found it will recoup the money.
CBS 2 found McDowell, who is now facing money laundering charges, has no criminal history. Four of her workers are also now facing multiple counts of wire fraud.
CBS 2 reached out to the day care for comment, but was still awaiting a response at 5 p.m. Wednesday.