Phila. couple arrested for education fraud

August 30, 2012 8:58:35 PM PDT
A Philadelphia couple has been arrested on fraud charges for allegedly claiming they live in Lower Moreland so they could send their child to a Montgomery County school.

Hamlet and Olesia Garcia are charged with theft of services.

Montgomery County authorities say the couple sent their 5-year-old daughter to Pine Road Elementary. The problem is they allegedly lived in Philadelphia which is about a mile away from the school.

"They didn't live there. They didn't pay taxes there, and basically stole from the taxpayers in Lower Moreland," said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's office says the cost to taxpayers for the Garcias to send their child to Pine Road Elementary was nearly $11,000.

"If people are living someplace else and not paying their taxes, they shouldn't send their kids somewhere where they are basically stealing from," said Steele.

But the family denies the charges.

Hamlet Garcia says he and his wife were having problems. They split last summer.

Olesia and their daughter went to live with Olesia's father and stepmother on Brookdale Avenue in Lower Moreland.

But in April, Olesia and her stepmother had a falling out, and she went back to Philadelphia in March.

"In April, they contacted my wife and me asking why we didn't report she moved out. We say we are going to tell you, but we didn't know it was a problem," Garcia said.

The District Attorney's office says Olesia's family told detectives she only occasionally lived there.

Hamlet argues he and his wife have been sending their daughter to private pre-schools for years, spending thousands of dollars, and produced paid invoices as proof.

"We told the school if it was a mistake that we didn't tell you in March, we didn't move out. We would pay you from March until the end of June. They didn't want the money," Garcia said.

The Garcias believe race may have played a role in the predominantly white school district.

They are distraught over the charges and are now sending their daughter to a private school in Somerton.

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