The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) has agreed to pay $4.08 million to settle whistleblower allegations that it submitted false claims in connection with national and state AmeriCorps education grants. The settlement resolves claims initially filed by Christine Hunt, an MCCCD employee. Based in Phoenix, MCCCD operates community colleges in Maricopa County.
According to the Justice Department, MCCCD allegedly bilked money from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that administers national service programs like AmeriCorps. MCCCD received AmeriCorps grant money to fund Project Ayuda, a program designed to get students interested in national service. In order to receive an education award from AmeriCorps, a student must complete designated hours of service requirements.
In her lawsuit, Hunt claims that MCCCD wrongly certified that students had completed this requirement so they could earn the award. As a result, AmeriCorps gave improper education awards to students that did not earn them. Additionally, MCCCD was able to secure CNCS grant money to fund Project Ayuda.
As a reward for taking action and exposing her employer’s alleged fraud, Hunt will receive a whistleblower reward of $775,827. Her case demonstrates that fraud against the government can happen in areas where you least expect. We can only hope that her actions will deter other grantees from exploiting the government and inspire others like herself to come forward if they’ve witnessed similar misconduct.