Owner of Chicago-area childcare centers sentenced to four years in prison for fraudulently obtaining more than $3.3 million in state subsidies


Date: April 8, 2024

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

CHICAGO — The owner of Chicago-area childcare centers has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for scheming to fraudulently obtain more than $3.3 million in State of Illinois subsidies designed to help low-income families afford childcare.

Aleesha McDowell owned childcare providers A&A Kiddy Kollege Inc. in Calumet City, Ill., A&A Kiddy Kollege 2 in Calumet Park, Ill., 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 directors of her centers and others to defraud the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Child Care Assistance Program by submitting applications containing materially false information, including fraudulent paystubs and income verification letters regarding a parent’s eligibility to qualify for state subsidy payments. In many instances, McDowell or the directors falsely represented in the applications that a parent was employed by one of McDowell’s childcare centers in order to satisfy IDHS’s requirement that recipients of the funds either be in school or employed and earning less than a certain income threshold.

As a result of the scheme, McDowell and her co-schemers caused IDHS to pay McDowell’s childcare centers more than $3.3 million in subsidy payments for services purportedly provided to children who were not eligible to receive such benefits. McDowell spent some of the criminally derived money on a Bentley Bentayga and a house in Mokena, Ill.

McDowell of Mokena, Ill., pleaded guilty last year to a federal wire fraud charge. In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah on March 27, 2024, ordered McDowell to pay restitution of $3,339,563.

Seven other defendants charged as part of the investigation also pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.

McDowell’s sentence was announced by Morris Pasqual, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Chicago Field Office, Robert W. “Wes” Wheeler, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI, and Shantel R. Robinson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Midwest Region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate McClelland and Brian Hayes.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.