Education

Local Parents Shut Out Of DC Schools By Illegal Out-Of-State Enrollment Can Sue

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District of Columbia parents whose children can’t get past long waitlists for local schools while government officials ignore rampant fraudulent enrollment of out-of-staters can sue, according to a former federal prosecutor.

“Anyone could easily bring suits against these parents,” Jed Silversmith told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Silversmith is a lawyer and former federal prosecutor who used to live on Capitol Hill and often watched parents in cars with Maryland plates at nearby Ludlow-Taylor Elementary and Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

“It’s not a high burden to file a suit,” he said.

Any D.C. resident could file a qui tam lawsuit against Maryland fraudsters on behalf of him or herself and the District of Columbia and profit under D.C.’s False Claims Act, following a DCNF investigation into widespread residency fraud and the failure of administrators with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), D.C. charter schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to address the problem.

The law empowers private parties to bring suit against individuals and companies defrauding the government and receive a share of the funds recouped.

If the plaintiff is successful, he would by law receive between 15 and 30 percent of the funds recovered by the government–a potentially massive sum. The loser of a False Claims Act case could also have to pay legal fees.

Silversmith saw plenty of evidence for a False Claims Act case when he lived on Capitol Hill near Ludlow-Taylor and Logan.

“It looked like the Maryland DMV,” Silversmith told TheDCNF. “It was all Maryland plates, or many Maryland plates — the same cars every day. The administrators were greeting these kids out of the car. They obviously saw the plates, every day.”

All a plaintiff would need to do is present enough evidence to show on a good-faith basis that a student lives in Maryland, not D.C., Silversmith said.

TheDCNF observed up to 40 percent of cars with Maryland plates at some schools, and multiple families from D.C. public and charter schools returning to their Maryland addresses and back to school. (RELATED: DC Not Interested In Maryland Fraudsters Stealing Its Schools)

Following a family home from school in the afternoon and from home to school in the morning over several days with photographic evidence should be enough to file a lawsuit, Silversmith said. Discovery could then produce further evidence, like tax returns, which would show who claims the children as dependents and where those taxpaying parents live.

A plaintiff could also use information like student directories and databases such as Lexis-Nexis, which indicate where a person resides, based on many consumer transactions.

After the plaintiff files the case, the attorney general for the District of Columbia could choose to take it over using the original plaintiff’s evidence, at which point the initial plaintiff would be removed from the case.

The AG would then collect further evidence, and the case would be under seal for up to six months, per the False Claims Act. If the AG successfully prosecutes the case, the original plaintiff would receive between 15 and 25 percent of the money recovered from the fraudsters.

If D.C. fails to take up the case, the original plaintiff could still take the lead on behalf of himself and the District under the False Claims Act. The plaintiff would recover between 25 and 30 percent of the funds recovered from the fraudsters that way, if successful.

Any confirmed fraudsters who work for the D.C. or federal governments could have their wages garnished, Silversmith said. The remainder of the recovered money would go to the District treasury, per the False Claims Act.

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