The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will pay $300,000 to settle allegations that it committed fraud to get grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice, reports Youth Today. The Justice Department charged that the Reno-based council falsified employee time sheets, billed the federal government for work by “ghost” employees, used grant funds to hire the spouses of employees – including the husband of its executive director – and fired a worker for raising questions about those practices, said a federal court settlement.
The council did not admit wrongdoing; no one from the organization could be immediately reached for comment. The council has received $97 million in federal grants since 1985, including several since the department filed the lawsuit in 2005. Among various charges, Justice said the council collected grant funds by billing for fictitious workers, double-billed for overhead, and filled out employee time sheets “to meet predetermined billing targets, regardless of the actual hours worked on each grant.” The council was accused of hiring Executive Director Mary Mentaberry’s husband as a real estate agent for transactions from 1997 to 2001, for which “he received significant commissions (nearly $95,000” in violation of Justice Department conflict-of-interest rules.