Former DCFS worker, 14 Others Charged In Illinois for Stealing $3.2M in Funds Allocated for Foster Care

Shauntele Pridgeon, 54, a former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) worker, along with 14 others, have been indicted on federal charges.  They have been accused of stealing $3.2 million in child care funds allocated for the Foster Care system over a six-year period.

According to CBS News, Pridgeon was first arrested in May and accused of receiving $1.6 million in illicit payments from 14 separate childcare providers between 2016 and 2022. It is alleged the funds came from either overcharging rates or from daycares that didn’t even exist. Further, it is claimed that Pridgeon used the funds at a casino.

Pridgeon’s position within the DCFS was to review and approve daycare providers under the agency’s jurisdiction.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois:

A 41-count indictment unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago alleges that SHAUNTELE Y. PRIDGEON orchestrated the fraud scheme from 2016 to 2022 while serving as a Community Social Service Planner for DCFS in Chicago.  Pridgeon fraudulently entered the information of several of her co-defendants into the DCFS computer system and approved them to be paid as providers caring for foster children, the indictment states.  Pridgeon directed at least $3.2 million in State of Illinois funds to the co-defendants and others, each of whom agreed to receive the money even though they knew that no foster children were actually in their care, the indictment states.  The co-defendants and others then paid bribes and kickbacks to Pridgeon totaling approximately $1.6 million, the indictment states.  Pridgeon allegedly used the bribe money to pay personal expenses, including gambling losses at a casino in Hammond, Ind.

The indictment accuses each of Pridgeon’s co-defendants of accepting various amounts of state money for the nonexistent childcare services.  For example, LATASHA THOMAS received more than $1.6 million and TRACEY JERVIER received more than $695,000, the indictment states.  RONNIE WEBB received more than $228,000, which was paid via checks made payable to “Webb Feet Child Care Inc.,” a bogus company that listed its address as Webb’s residence, the indictment states.

CBS News reports:

On Wednesday, a 41-count indictment was unsealed, accusing Pridgeon of arranging for at least $3.2 million in DCFS funds to be paid to 14 people after she’d approved them as providers caring for foster children, even though none of them actually had any foster kids in their care.

Federal prosecutors said, in exchange, her co-defendants paid Pridgeon bribes and kickbacks totaling approximately $1.6 million, which she used for personal expenses, including for gambling at a casino in Hammond, Indiana.

According to the charges:

  • co-defendant Latasha Thomas, 48, received more than $1.6 million in fraudulent payments;
  • co-defendant Tracey Jervier, 60, received more than $695,000;
  • co-defendant Tahndrea Harper, 50, received nearly $500,000;
  • co-defendant Joi Sanderson, 49, received more than $280,000;
  • co-defendant Keli Payne, 49, received more than $400,000;
  • co-defendant Ronnie Webb, 57, received more than $228,000;
  • co-defendant Nikki Giovanni Houston, 53, received more than $495,000;
  • co-defendant Shenita McGary, 37, received approximately $449,000;
  • co-defendant Sherri Baines, 45, received more than $263,000;
  • co-defendant Kiecha Lacey, 50, received more than $203,000;
  • co-defendant Christina Davis, 54, receive more than $128,000;
  • co-defendant Marissa Terry, 36, received more than $155,000;
  • co-defendant Aramis Collier, 39, received more than $75,000;
  • and co-defendant Aunsheree Nelson, 44, received more than $65,000

The full complaint can be viewed here.

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