Auditor Makes Arrest in Hazlehurst Child Care Fraud Scheme

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JACKSON, Miss. – State Auditor Shad White announced Special Agents from his office have arrested Jan Coleman, former director of the Hazlehurst United Methodist Church Child Care & Preschool, after she was indicted for one count of fraud in connection with a state or federally funded program and one count of embezzlement by a grand jury assembled by District Attorney for the Mississippi 22nd District Alexander Martin. At the time of her arrest, agents delivered a demand letter worth $10,187.53 to Coleman for the cost of the investigation.

The
Early Childhood Care & Development division of the Mississippi Department
of Human Services (MDHS) administers public funds directly to childcare
providers to subsidize the cost to qualified families. Coleman is accused of making
fraudulent claims to MDHS for children who were not enrolled in the childcare
service she directed at the time she filed the claims. Coleman allegedly submitted
multiple fraudulent claims worth over $75,000 from November 2014 to July 2018.

Hazlehurst
United Methodist Church Child Care & Preschool terminated Coleman in July
2018. The alleged fraud was then discovered and self-reported by the childcare
provider. The case was originally investigated by MDHS. It was referred to the
Auditor’s office by the Mississippi Attorney General.

To
recover the loss of public funds, MDHS is withholding funding from the
childcare provider.

“Coleman
defrauded the taxpayers for far too long and took advantage of money intended
for the benefit of children,” Auditor White said. “I am thankful for the
cooperation of the various state agencies and the district attorney for our
coordinated efforts in bringing her to justice.”

No
surety bond covered Coleman’s employment. A surety bond is similar to insurance
designed to protect taxpayers from embezzlement and corruption. Coleman will
remain liable for the full amount of the demand in addition to criminal
charges.

If
convicted, Coleman faces up to 13 years in prison and $35,000 in fines. All
persons arrested by the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor are presumed
innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The case will be prosecuted by
the office of District Attorney Martin.

Suspected
fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online any time by clicking the
red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at
1-(800)-321-1275.

Click here for Mississippi State Auditor's Website