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Former Dept. of Welfare officials charged with stealing $1.25 million from welfare-to-work program

Updated: Thursday, September 12 2013, 12:31 PM CDT
Written by: Rachel Snody

Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced charges against a former high-ranking Department of Welfare official and the CEO and chief financial officer of the Philadelphia welfare-to-work non profit National Comprehensive Center for Fathers (NCCF)  program for stealing $1.25 million in grant funding.

The funds were designated to help fathers improve their lives for the benefit of their children.

After evidence was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, the grand jury recommended the charges be filed.

 The charges are against Bryon Noon, former director of the Department of Welfare's, now disbanded, Bureau of Employment and Training Programs Division and Lawrence Yancey aka Kofi Asante, NCCF CEO; and Anthony McNeil, NCCF CFO.
 
According to the Office of the Attorney General, The investigation started in 2011 when three whistle-blowers brought misuse of state and federal grant funding to the attention of the Department of Welfare. The Department conducted two separate audits of NCCF.

As director of the Bureau of Employment and Training Programs, Noon's job was to disburse millions of dollars each year to welfare-to-work organizations like NCCF. According to the grand jury,  he allegedly enabled NCCF to operate with no fiscal oversight and surrounded himself with inexperienced staff who would not question him.
 
 NCCF's mission was to provide Philadelphia men the education and training necessary to place them into employment, with a special focus on assisting men who were recently released from prison. It closed in April 2012.
 
DPW's audits for 2010 and 2011 revealed that Asante used the NCCF grant money to fund a lavish lifestyle. It is alleged NCCF paid for Asante's personal expenses, including dry cleaning, flowers, jewelry, chauffeured limousine rides and political contributions.
 
It also funded lavish trips to Ghana, Africa, Las Vegas, Nev., and Atlantic City, N.J., according to the grand jury.  The presentment detailed a "fact-finding" mission to Ghana where Asante sent both his "spiritual advisor" and stepson to procure cotton for "D&O Manufacturing," an NCCF start-up contract.

Investigators allege that "D&O Manufacturing" was invented by Noon to embezzle grant funding that otherwise would have been returned by the end of the 2010 fiscal year. It was funded with more than $1 million and purported to train men to sew and make scrubs that would then be distributed to DPW agencies throughout the state.
 
However, the cotton industry in Ghana was all but nonexistent and the scrubs were never produced. The price tag for the trip, $23,000, included a $4,000 donation to the spiritual advisor, according to the grand jury.
 
Asante also allegedly used the NCCF coffers to issue a $24,000 NCCF paycheck to himself for a down payment to build a townhouse in Philadelphia, a transaction that was flagged by his mortgage provider, according to the grand jury.
 
Anthony McNeil arranged for an additional paycheck for himself in the amount of $11,780 around the same time the Ghana trip had been approved, according to the grand jury. The money was not owed to him and he did not repay the money. He allegedly used it to buy himself a car.
 
Even after the Department of Public Welfare began its audits of NCCF, McNeil and Asante allegedly attempted to steal an additional $474,000, which DPW refused to pay.

 
Bryon Noon, 45, of Lancaster is charged with three counts of theft by deception, each a felony of the third degree; and three counts of criminal conspiracy to commit theft by deception, also felonies of the third degree. He also is charged under the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act with one count of violation of the conflict of interest statute, a felony that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Lawrence Yancey aka Kofi Asante, 61,  of Philadelphia, is charged with five counts of theft by deception, each a felony of the third degree; five counts of criminal conspiracy to commit theft by deception, each a felony of the third degree; and one count of criminal attempt theft by deception, also a felony of the third degree.
 
Anthony McNeil, 62, of New Jersey, is charged with five counts of theft by deception, each a felony of the third degree; five counts of criminal conspiracy to commit theft by deception, each a felony of the third degree; and one count of criminal attempt theft by deception, also a felony of the third degree. Former Dept. of Welfare officials charged with stealing $1.25 million from welfare-to-work program


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