Wilm. daycare owner faces federal tax, fraud charges after sending inflated attendance figures

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A federal grand jury returned an indictment last week, charging the owner and operator of a Wilmington daycare center with one count of wire fraud, one count of theft of government money, and three counts of tax evasion.

Brenda Mathis, 56, is accused of inflating attendance records for her daycare center, L.J.’s Playpen Academy, Inc., to increase subsidies and payments she received from two federally-funded programs: Purchase of Care and Delaware Stars for Early Success.

The Purchase of Care Program helps eligible, low-income families pay for childcare by providing subsidies to a daycare provider of the families’ choice. The Delaware Stars for Early Success Program disperses payments to daycare providers based on the quality of service.

According to the indictment, Mathis also under-reported the income from the daycare center, including the income received from these programs, on corporate tax returns for tax years 2015 through 2017.

Mathis is charged with one count of Wire Fraud, one count of Theft of Government Money, and three Counts of Tax Evasion. If convicted on the Wire Fraud count, Mathis faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

If convicted on the Theft of Government Money count, Mathis faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Tax Evasion counts each carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentences are typically less than the maximum.

This case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

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