A Maryland couple who fraudulently enrolled three children in top D.C. public schools for a decade must pay the city more than $500,000 in fines, Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday.
The parents, both D.C. police officers, lived at various locations in Maryland and Virginia while their children attended D.C. schools between 2003 and 2013, according to the attorney general’s office. The husband owned a home in Northeast that he rented to tenants, using that address to enroll the couple’s children in some of the city’s most coveted public schools — a violation of city law.
The law requires that non-District residents who attend city schools to pay nonresident tuition for each student, which ranges from $7,000 to $10,000 annually.
“D.C. taxpayers should not be subsidizing the education of children from other states,” Racine said in a statement. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who falsely claim District residency in order to obtain government benefits to which they are not entitled.”
The issue of nonresidents enrolling in the D.C. Public Schools has become increasingly charged as the city has expanded access to publicly funded preschool programs, poured millions of dollars into school renovations and has seen its academic achievements rise. Parents tell anecdotes of sitting on waitlists for schools while they see drivers with Maryland plates lining up to drop off their children. Cases of residency fraud, though, can be complex in a city with high mobility and two nearby bordering states; many children live with divorced parents and cross between jurisdictions frequently.
The Office of the Attorney General started suing residents for nonresident tuition fraud in 2012. Since then, the office has secured more than 24 monetary judgments and out-of-court settlements totaling more than $1.2 million.
In this particular D.C. Superior Court case, the city accused two police officers — Lt. Alan Hill and Sgt. Candace Hill — of using an apartment to enroll their three children at schools near the Northwest police station where they worked. Although Alan Hill owned the apartment, authorities alleged that the family did not live there, instead renting it to others and making them ineligible for resident status for purposes of school enrollment.
Reached Thursday by phone, Candace Hill declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
“It’s way more complicated than black and white,” she said.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2015, said the children attended John Eaton Elementary School, Alice Deal Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School.
“The three DCPS schools that defendants’ children attended are conveniently located near defendants’ place of work,” the lawsuit said. “Indeed, as defendants admitted to MPD investigators, defendants would occasionally use a marked police cruiser from the Second District to transport their children to school in the morning.”
The Metropolitan Police Department investigated the parents’ residency status, and in September 2013 D.C. Public Schools said the children had to leave the schools or pay all the accrued nonresident tuition. The children withdrew from the D.C. schools and, according to the lawsuit, have not made any payments to the city.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna Lee Beck ordered the parents to pay the city $448,047 under the D.C. False Claims Act and approximately $90,000 in other fines. The D.C. False Claims Act allows the city to collect triple the amount in damages when someone knowingly makes false statements to avoid paying money to the city. The judge arrived at the amount owed to the city by tripling the amount the parents should have paid to the school system for nonresident tuition.