Two Executives of Chicago-Area Non-Profit Organization Charged With Misappropriating $1.8 Million

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

CHICAGO — Two executives of a Chicago-area non-profit organization have been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating more than $1.8 million in funds intended to support the charity’s work with underprivileged youth.

TONY BELL served as executive director of the Center for Community Academic Success Partnerships, and BARBARA HARRIS was a CCASP project manager.  The non-profit organization received government grants and other funds to provide after-school programs to elementary and secondary schools in the Chicago area.  The government grants included funds from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, a federal program offering financial support to community centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities.  The 21st Century program issued grants to its local administrator, the Illinois State Board of Education, which in turn disbursed the funds to CCASP.

An indictment returned Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago alleges that Bell, Harris, and others from 2012 to 2017 fraudulently obtained and misappropriated at least $1.8 million in the federal funds.  Bell, Harris, and their associates allegedly transferred approximately $1.3 million of the fraud proceeds to bank accounts they controlled, and they used approximately $436,536 to pay down Bell’s credit card balances.  The pair and their associates also used approximately $130,372 of the fraud proceeds to write numerous checks made payable to Community Partners, an unincorporated entity which the defendants fraudulently claimed was a subcontractor to CCASP, the indictment states.  Bell and Harris subsequently negotiated the Community Partners checks for cash or used them to purchase money orders at a currency exchange in Dolton, Ill., according to the indictment.

The indictment charges Bell, 61, of Matteson, Ill., and Harris, 52, of South Holland, Ill., with conspiracy, money laundering, and wire fraud.  Arraignments in U.S. District Court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John F. Woolley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Midwestern Regional Office; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; and Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in Chicago.  The Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General provided valuable assistance.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Fluhr.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.