WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced lawsuits against six Maryland parents—including three current or former District government employees—for falsifying District residency to send their children to District schools for free. In three separate lawsuits, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that these non-residents broke District law by sending their children to District schools without paying required non-resident tuition. OAG is seeking more than $320,000 total in unpaid tuition, damages, and penalties. These new suits represent the latest push in OAG’s ongoing effort to crack down on residency fraud in District schools.
“When non-residents defraud District taxpayers and take seats in schools from District students, we hold them accountable,” said AG Racine. “Over the past two years, my office has devoted more resources and hired new attorneys and investigators to fight residency fraud. With this work, we are sending a message to non-residents that breaking the law to send their children to District schools carries serious consequences.”
Parents, guardians, or eligible caregivers who are District residents can send their children to the District’s traditional public or public charter schools free of charge. Non-residents can apply to send their children to District schools, but they must pay non-resident tuition, which typically costs between $10,000 and $14,000 per year. However, in most cases, even paying non-residents are not typically admitted to a District school if there are D.C. residents on that school’s waiting list.
Under the District’s False Claims Act, it is illegal to knowingly make false statements to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay the District. It is also illegal to knowingly cover up or avoid an obligation to pay the District, even if you do not make any false statements yourself. The District can seek to recover up to triple the amount that is owed in unpaid tuition if a court agrees and can also obtain civil penalties. This means that non-residents who send their children to District schools and do not pay the required tuition could face extremely steep costs if they are found liable for non-resident tuition fraud.
OAG has independent authority to investigate and take legal action under the False Claims Act. When OAG receives an allegation of residency fraud or a referral from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) or public charter schools, or the public, the office independently investigates the case to determine whether there is evidence of fraud and if legal action is appropriate.
"The enrollment and residency process must balance ease for families and local education agencies and support our most vulnerable families, while enforcing District laws and regulations that ensure residents have access to a free, public education,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “OSSE remains committed to ensuring District schools remain accessible first and foremost to DC residents. We look forward to working with schools, families, and the community to further improve our residency efforts."
Residency Fraud Lawsuits
OAG filed three separate suits against six Maryland parents who fraudulently claimed to be District residents in order to send their children to District schools without paying tuition. Specifically, OAG alleges that these parents:
- Falsified D.C. residency to send their children to District schools: All the parents named in the lawsuits lived in Maryland at the time they sent their children to District schools. The parents lied about being D.C. residents, sent their children to District schools, and failed to pay out-of-state tuition.
- Lied repeatedly in documents attesting to D.C. residency to avoid paying non-resident tuition: Each year, parents who send their children to D.C. schools are required to submit enrollment forms and residency verification forms for each of their children. These parents used District addresses that belonged to other individuals on the official forms and signed sworn statements attesting that they lived in the District. Some of these forms included the statement “I understand that providing false information for the purposes of defrauding the government is punishable by law.”
Michelle P. Osegueda-Williams and Donald Williams
Michelle P. Osegueda-Williams and Donald Williams are residents of Huntingtown, Md. Both are former employees of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and current government employees. Osegueda-Williams was formerly employed by MPD as a dispatcher and currently is employed as a dispatcher with the District’s Office of Unified Communications. Williams was formerly employed by MPD as a Master Patrol Officer and is currently employed by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority. Despite living in Maryland, they falsely claimed to live in the District and sent their child to District public schools tuition-free for part of the 2004-2005 school year and from 2006 through 2013. Their son attended Lafayette Elementary School, Barnard Elementary School, Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson, and Eastern High School. The District is seeking to recover unpaid tuition, damages and penalties from Osegueda-Williams and Williams that could total as much as $108,557.
A copy of the District’s complaint against Osegueda-Williams and Williams is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/Osegueda-Williams-Residency-Fraud-Complaint.pdf
Danielle Lewis Anderson and Christopher D. Anderson
Danielle Lewis Anderson and Christopher Anderson are residents of Upper Marlboro, Md. The Andersons sent their child to a District of Columbia Public Charter School (Apple Tree Early Learning) and two District of Columbia Public Schools (Peabody Primary Campus and Watkins Elementary School) from 2008 through 2016, claiming on official government forms that they and their children lived in the District though they actually resided in Maryland during this time. The District is seeking to recover unpaid tuition, damages, and penalties from the Andersons that could total as much as $137,492.
A copy of the District’s complaint against the Andersons is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/Anderson-Residency-Fraud-Complaint.pdf
Claudine Nana Tchapchet and Habib Haviv Aziz Jah
Claudine Nana Tchapchet is a resident of Accokeek, Md. and Habib Haviv Aziz Jah is a resident of Hyattsville, Md. Tchapchet, a former DCPS employee, and Jah sent their three children to DCPS schools between 2011 and 2014 and claimed to be District residents, despite living in Maryland during that time. Two of their children attended Randle Highlands Elementary School during the 2011-2012 school year, and all three subsequently attended Langdon Elementary School from 2012 through 2014. The District is seeking to recover unpaid tuition, damages, and penalties from Tchapchet and Jah that could total as much as $82,026.
A copy of the District’s complaint against Tchapchet and Jah available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/Jah-Tchapchet-Residency-Fraud-Complaint.pdf
OAG’s Work on Residency Fraud
Over the past two years, OAG has devoted additional resources, attorneys, and investigators to fight residency fraud. In March, OAG , including a former D.C. Public Schools employee and two current D.C. public charter school employees, for falsifying District residency to send their children to D.C. public schools for free. In February, OAG for participating in residency-fraud schemes. In December, OAG for residency fraud at in-demand District schools like Capitol Hill Montessori and Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Last May, against two non-resident D.C. government employees and one non-resident D.C. public charter school teacher. Over the past year, OAG has sought to recover upwards of $2.5 million in unpaid tuition, damages, and penalties through residency fraud lawsuits.
Parents with questions about the non-resident tuition enforcement process can find answers to frequently asked questions here: .
Anyone who knows of or suspects residency fraud can submit a tip directly to OAG by email at . They can also submit tips to OSSE by calling (202) 719-6500 or .