State Dept Employee Funneled Taxpayer Funds To Her Boyfriend

State Department Shutterstock/Sorbis

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Thomas Phippen Thomas Phippen is acting editor in chief at the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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  • Three people are caught up in a fraud scheme that funneled taxpayer money through government grants
  • One State Department grant officer had a friend create fake invoices and fraudulent checks, and used the money for things like her Verizon bill
  • The grant officer helped her boyfriend, an unidentified man, make fake catering invoices

An employee at the Department of State used her position to funnel taxpayer-funded grant money to her boyfriend and others, and used federal money to pay for perks for herself and friends.

Kelli R. Davis, 48, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to steal public funds and wire fraud in a scheme that involved her government contractor boyfriend and skimming money from grants intended to sponsor foreign exchanges for youth athletes and coaches from around the world.

Davis, who lives in Bowie, Md., admitted to a scheme where she and her friend Denon Hopkins, who ran a limousine and van business, made $17,335 between 2011 and 2016 through falsifying vendor invoices and making out fraudulent government checks. She also admitted to stealing $17,777 from grant funds for meals and concert tickets and other items over several years.

Davis also helped another man, identified in court documents only as her boyfriend, to make fraudulent invoices for catering services. (RELATED: State Dept Offers $80,000 To Send Circus Performers To Central Asia)

A spokesperson for the State Department confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation that Davis worked with them. The spokesperson would not say on whether Davis had been terminated because the department “[does] not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.” Davis’ sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 24.

Davis worked with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at State, where she helped oversee a grant for the Sports Visitor Program that brought students and athletes from other nations to George Mason University. The government provided between $1.1 million and $1.4 million per year for GMU to run the program, and Davis was responsible for approving expenses and managing budgets for the project, according to court documents.

GMU and the State Department contracted Hopkins to transport students and the interpreter, who also served as a guide, around D.C. Davis and Hopkins began devising events for the visiting students to attend — some real, and some fake — and creating invoices for each that the interpreter would pay for with government-supplied funds.

In some instances, Hopkins would forge the interpreter’s signature for the fraudulent checks to fake vendors, and deposit the money into his own bank account. Hopkins would then pay off bills for Davis with those funds.

In one instance described by prosecutors, Davis instructed Hopkins by both email and text message to pay her overdue Verizon bill on Feb. 17, 2016. On Feb. 23, Hopkins deposited several of the fraudulent checks worth $1,200 into his personal account, and two days later he transferred $722 into Davis’ Verizon account.

Hopkins made a total 74 deposits of state funds into his personal accounts through this scheme, and kicked $12,590 back to Davis. Hopkins pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in December, as reported by The Washington Post, and was sentenced in April to 14 months in prison and 3 years supervised release.

Lawyers for Davis did not immediately return TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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