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USF To Pay $2.5M Over Alleged False Claims For Student Grants Following Whistleblower Complaint

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The University of San Francisco has agreed to to pay $2.56 million over fraudulent claims for federal AmeriCorps grant funds for students working towards teaching degrees, according to federal authorities.

The US Attorney's Office for California's Eastern District said Friday that USF obtained AmeriCorps funding for it San Francisco Teacher Residency Program, which grants money for tuition and living expenses to students who also serve as teacher apprentices in high-needs schools in the San Francisco Unified School District.

The student volunteers were required to work a specified number of hours that had to be accurately documented. The U.S. Attorney's Office said USF's Teacher Residency Program falsified more than 1,500 timesheets and falsely certified 61 education awards during the 2014-2016 grant years to obtain $1.7 million in federal grant funds.

The allegations about fradulent claims were first raised in a whistleblower lawsuit against USF by the former assistant director of the university's teacher residency program.

"One whistleblower stepped forward to expose a brazen fraud. Our thanks go to him, to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California for its vigorous action and the cooperation of USF to make the public whole," said Deborah J. Jeffrey, Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program.

When the issues were brought to the attention of senior USF management, USF voluntarily relinquished the grant and actively cooperated during the investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"When federal grantees commit fraud to get or keep federal grant money, the United States Attorney's Office and our federal law enforcement partners will pursue these wrongdoers, seeking damages and substantial civil penalties where warranted," said U.S. Attorney Scott. "In this case, USF's cooperation with federal investigators was a key factor in determining an appropriate resolution."

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

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