State busts parents over fraudulent claims for day care assistance



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A WFTV investigation found the state is now going after dozens of parents who are getting taxpayer-funded daycare assistance and shouldn't be.

Investigators are even arresting parents for it.

WFTV's Kenneth Craig spoke with officials at the 4C headquarters in Orange County where that assistance is handed out.

Thousands of innocent families who are qualified and walk in looking for help are forced to leave empty handed.

Nicole Flanagan likely never thought she would end up behind bars. She was a secretary at the Brevard-Seminole County State Attorney's Office for more than three years.

She's also a mother and to make ends meet she received and, at one point, qualified for 4C, a public assistance to subsidize day care costs.

"The reality is: folks are struggling," said Karen Willis, CEO of Early Learning Coalition of Orange County.

But investigators said that struggle became illegal when Flanagan quit her job and still got the daycare money.

Investigators said she received more than $5,000 worth of day care and she did it by altering her pay stubs to show she was still working.

She was arrested a few days ago and now her former coworkers are prosecuting her.

WFTV found out it's happening all the time.

"I have over 9,000 children on a wait list. So when someone who is not eligible for the program and continues to receive services, it denies services to a child is eligible," said Willis.

WFTV's records requests show in the last two years, the state has investigated 94 cases like this in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties.

Within the last three months they've even arrested two women, including Flanagan, to try to crack down on the problem.

"These people are going to have to pay this money back. And it will be horrible if these parents are going to have to go to jail. Now what happens to their kids. It's sad, very sad," said Willis.

Now the agency is trying to get these thousands of dollars back.