>Bad Press For AmeriCorps

>Gregory Korte of USA TODAY has written a rather scathing piece about the “pattern” of AmeriCorps fraud going on across the country. In a time where funding for National Service is on the table with the new Congressional session and word that the Segal AmeriCorps Educational Award reform bill has been wiped off the table, this is scary stuff.

You be the judge. Do you think this accurately depicts AmeriCorps?

The top watchdog over AmeriCorps has told Congress that he has found several cases of fraud in the national service program — but that prosecutors won’t pursue them.

In some cases, the alleged fraud involves the misuse of more than $900,000. The acting inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service also says there’s a “pattern” of volunteer fraud — grant recipients misusing their time, often for personal gain.

Investigators “continue to face challenges in having our investigations accepted” for prosecution, Kenneth Bach said in a December report. Federal prosecutors told him the cases “lack jury appeal” or don’t meet a “dollar threshold.”

The Justice Department would not discuss individual cases, but spokeswoman Jessica Smith said each case is evaluated on a number of standards, including the weight of the evidence.

“Procurement fraud and theft of government funds are taken very seriously,” Smith said.

AmeriCorps is the largest and best-known program run by the $1.1 billion Corporation for National Service, spending $698 million to support 88,530 members who serve in poor communities.

Bach declined to speak to USA TODAY. In an internal newsletter last year, he called a recent spate of cases “serious offenses against volunteers and the public’s trust.” Such scams cost not only taxpayers and communities, but also take “unfair advantage of the highly motivated volunteers.”

Bach’s report and agency records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show:

•Annie Burton-Byrd, the program director of the Martin Luther King After-School Program in Baltimore, used five AmeriCorps members to work at her rental management and tree-trimming businesses. Cost to taxpayers: $30,634. She did not return a call seeking comment.

(Read more)

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