Report: Federal Legal Aid Program Vulnerable to Fraud


When the poor need legal services but cannot afford them, they turn to Legal Services Corp. (LSC), a federally funded program that provides the poor with legal services.

But according to a report by The Center for Public Integrity, questions are being raised about the integrity of the program in the wake of a rash of fraud cases against it.

In May, the former chief of Maryland's legal aid bureau was charged with stealing over $1 million allocated for legal aid and spending it on things like press junkets to Atlantic City for prostitutes and gambling. Within the last four months, the Justice Department has brought three major fraud cases against officials on non-profit groups who received LSC funding, and a forth was uncovered last year.

The Center for Public Integrity also obtained documents and interviews that reveal LSC "is facing internal questions about the quality of its grant-making decisions, interference with its attorneys and conflicts of interest."

"Bad management is jeopardizing the ability of the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal assistance to people in need," Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa told the Center in an interview.