La. Dept. of Education employee arrested, fired for allegedly stealing over $74k
BATON ROUGE - A former state employee responsible for ensuring that Louisiana's child care providers had the funds necessary to operate amid the pandemic reportedly stole over $74,000 from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), officials say.
According to arrest records, 47-year-old Romney Manuel, a former program consultant with LDOE, allegedly used a series of programming techniques to steal money from the system and then took extensive measures to try and cover his trail.
An affidavit explains Manuel's responsibilities with LDOE saying, "Romney Manuel employed by LDOE in the Office of Early Childhood Operations, was responsible for entering information into the Child Care Provider Grant Trackers System (CCPGTS) and the Tracking Information Payment Systems (TIPS)."
The report continues, "Manuel entered the information required for Type III early learning centers and home-based child care providers to obtain Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) funds allocated through the Federal CARES Act and distributed these funds to childcare providers through Louisiana Child Care Assistance Provider (LACAP) grants intended to sustaine those providers operating during the COVID-19 pandemic."
However, officials allege that Romney used his position to obtain funds illegally.
The affidavit says that in April, a complaint against Manuel was made, with an unidentified source contacting authorities and telling officials they believed Manuel was committing theft and fraud at the Department of Education.
The tip was taken seriously and Louisiana State Police launched an investigation into the alleged theft.
According to authorities, an investigation revealed that in May of 2020, Manuel allegedly manipulated data in an LDOE computer program to make it look like a child care center that had closed in 1997 was still open and operating.
Officials say Manuel used this non-existent child care center, called "Nanny's Learning," to obtain a total of $74,250 in funds, money that he allegedly pocketed for himself.
According to the affidavit, investigators spoke with witnesses who confirmed Manuel's illegal activities, and investigators eventually obtained warrants that allowed for a search of Manuel's home and possessions.
Upon searching Manuel's devices, investigators say they discovered Manuel was working with a second person named Demietriek Scott to invest stolen funds into a Robinhood Investments account.
Officials indicate Manuel worked with Scott to make the investments in hopes of concealing his criminal activity, thereby laundering funds he'd stolen from LDOE.
The affidavit adds that while officials were searching Manuel's home, they discovered a "clandestine marijuana grow," which Manuel claimed belonged to his son.
Manuel was arrested on charges of theft, computer fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, filing or maintaining false public records, malfeasance in office, criminal conspiracy, and distribution/manufacturing of Schedule I drugs.
Manuel was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison with a $50,500 bond.
LDOE confirmed that Manuel has since been fired and is no longer employed by the Department of Education.
LDOE issued the following statement to WBRZ by email, Wednesday:
"We had cause to believe the employee had stolen funds. We notified the appropriate authorities, terminated his employment and he has been arrested. We value the trust of our citizens and look forward to justice being served."
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