Date: November 24, 2020 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Chicago, IL — The owner of Chicago-area child care centers and several of her employees fraudulently schemed to pocket more than $6.1 million from a State of Illinois program designed to help low-income families afford child care, according to an indictment returned in federal court, announced Tamera Cantu, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. Aleesha McDowell owned child care providers A&A Kiddy Kollege Inc. in Calumet City, A&A Kiddy Kollege 2 in Calumet Park, and Kreative Kidz Academy Inc., Kreative Kidz Academy II Inc., and Kreative Kidz Academy III Inc. in Chicago. From 2012 to 2020, McDowell schemed with four directors of her centers and others to defraud the Illinois Department of Human Services' Child Care Assistance Program by submitting and causing the submission of materially false information, including fraudulent paystubs and income verification letters, regarding a parent's eligibility to qualify for state subsidy payments, the indictment states. McDowell and the co-schemers also assisted parents in completing false IDHS applications that fraudulently caused the state to issue subsidy payments to the centers, the indictment alleges. As a result of the scheme, the defendants caused IDHS to suffer a loss of at least $6.1 million, the indictment states. The charges accuse McDowell of spending some of the criminally derived money on a 2017 Bentley Bentayga and a house in Mokena, Ill. McDowell, of Mokena, is charged with 12 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. Also charged with wire fraud are Nicole Lacey, of Burnham, Ill., who worked as director at AAKK and AAKK-2 (ten counts); Stacy Sims, of Chicago, director at KKA-2 (two counts); Janelle Jordan, of Chicago, director at KKA-3 (three counts); Lauren Coley, of Phoenix, Ariz., director at AAKK and KKA (two counts); Shavon Johnson, of Country Club Hills, Ill. (four counts); and Sean Blunt, of Matteson, Ill. (two counts). The indictment was ordered unsealed on Monday. Most of the defendants have made initial appearances in federal court in Chicago. 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.