2009-04-09 / Features

Nonprofit Agency Head Allegedly Stole $400K From Pa.

By Marc Levy ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The head of a Philadelphia nonprofit organization is facing charges he used more than $400,000 in state taxpayer funds intended to poor children and elderly residents to finance a lavish lifestyle.

Tyron B. Ali is charged with more than 2,000 counts of forgery, theft, tampering, deception and other crimes. A grand jury recommended the charges after hearing testimony that Ali spent the money on Caribbean travel, fancy clothes and more.

"The grand jury uncovered a concerted plan by Ali to use his nonprofit organization as a vehicle to commit massive theft of taxpayer dollars,'' Attorney General Tom Corbett said Friday.

The charges against Ali, 35, are the latest in a string of cases the attorney general has brought alleging that large sums of taxpayer money have been diverted for illegal uses. Last week, Corbett's office charged a former top state House Democrat with diverting millions from a Beaver County nonprofit community development organization for his personal and political benefit.

Ali, who runs Logan Child Care Resource Center, is jailed in Dauphin County in lieu of $750,000 bail. A clerk at the Harrisburg court where Ali was arraigned said Ali did not have a lawyer. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 15.

The state Education Department began paying the Logan Center in 2004 to make reimbursements to local care centers that provide meals for children and the elderly. The meals are subsidized by the federally funded Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Education Department officials became suspicious after care providers started complaining in 2006 that that the Logan Center was not properly reimbursing them. For a while, Ali bought himself time by providing phony certified checks that made it appear as though he had paid the providers, department spokesman Michael Race said.

Eventually, the department sent auditors who found the nonprofit's books in disarray. It canceled the Logan Center contract in September 2007 and turned the case over to the attorney general's office, Race said.

"If somebody's going to be fraudulent, we have safeguards in place to catch them and in this case, that's what happened,'' he said.

In all, the Logan Center was paid nearly $140,000 to administer the program. It was supposed to have distributed more than $670,000 in meal reimbursements, Race said.

The grand jury said Ali forged financial records such as payroll checks, bank statements and reimbursement forms that he sent to the Education Department to detail supposedly legitimate expenses from the care centers that were eligible for reimbursement.

In some cases, Ali allegedly invented ghost employees. In others, he inflated expenses and administrative costs, investigators told the grand jury.

The department deposited the reimbursement money into Logan Center bank accounts, but Ali allegedly withdrew the taxpayer dollars for jewelry, personal bills, travel, meals and clothing.

Bank records showed money went to a Caribbean cruise travel agent, a Mercedes-Benz dealer, various high-end restaurants such as Palm and clothing stores including Brooks Brothers, an investigator testified.

Another $1,500 paid for Philadelphia parking tickets, he testified.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office said investigators also could not figure out how much salary Ali received from the nonprofit because of all the fake documents he created.

Corbett said the investigation is continuing and more charges are expected.

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