Home Detroit Press Releases 2011 Co-Founder of Associates for Learning Sentenced for Submitting Fraudulent Invoices to the Detroit Public Schools...

Co-Founder of Associates for Learning Sentenced for Submitting Fraudulent Invoices to the Detroit Public Schools

U.S. Attorney’s Office October 20, 2011
  • Eastern District of Michigan (313) 226-9100

The co-founder of Associates for Learning (A4L), who submitted $3.32 million in fraudulent invoices to Detroit Public Schools (DPS), was sentenced today to 84 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution to the Detroit Public Schools, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today. Ms. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Sherry Washington, 54, of Detroit, co-founder for Associates for Learning, was sentenced by United States District Judge Paul D. Borman. Judge Borman also ordered that Washington pay DPS $3.3 million in restitution.

Sherry Washington was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to commit federal program fraud after a two-week jury trial in June of 2011. According to a federal indictment, Sherry Washington, along with Gwendolyn Washington, Marilyn White, and Sally Jo Bond, were the founders of Associates for Learning Corporation (A4L). A4L provided “wellness coaching and educational consultation services.” In September 2005, Stephen Hill, former DPS executive director of risk management, accepted a proposal from A4L to implement a health improvement plan for DPS employees.

Stephen Hill testified at Sherry Washington’s trial that he awarded the DPS wellness plan to A4L with no competitive bidding and with no written contract. Hill also testified that Sherry Washington proposed to pay him cash kickbacks; she delivered bags of cash to Hill in private locations, including the parking structure of the Detroit Athletic Club.

According to court documents, Washington and the co-conspirators knowingly submitted the fraudulently inflated A4L invoices to DPS. Sherry Washington and other co-conspirators received over $3.3 million in payments from the inflated A4L invoices submitted to DPS; Stephen Hill authorized the DPS wire transfer payments to A4L.

Following an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI, an indictment charging nine people was returned. Stephen Hill cooperated and pled guilty in May 2011 to his involvement and received 60 months’ imprisonment with restitution of $3.32 million. One defendant, DPS employee Christina Polk-Osumah, died of natural causes after the indictment. Co-defendant Gwendolyn Washington will be sentenced on November 14, 2011. Co-defendant Marilyn White received a sentence of 21 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution to DPS in the amount of $3.32 million. Valerie Polk received a sentence of 18 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution to DPS in the amount of $347,746; Thomas Taylor received a sentence of one year and one day in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $440,928; Sally Jo Bond received a sentence of 18 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution to DPS in the amount of $3.32 million, and Duane Polk received a sentence of 27 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution to DPS in the amount of $788,674.

“We hope that a strong sentence like this one will discourage people from stealing from our schools when the opportunity arises,” McQuade said. FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena stated, “Public schools are one of the largest recipients of federal funding. This defendant set out to steal funds originally designated for the Detroit Public Schools and the children of the City of Detroit. The FBI continues to investigate individuals who rob our children of resources, and as a result negatively impact their education and development.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Martinez stated, “Public officials stealing money from the children of this city is wrong and will not be tolerated. IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed putting these individuals behind bars.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Michael Buckley and investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and FBI.