Stephen Street’s report cliams Ricky Sinclair, pastor of Miracle Place Church and All The Way House, accessed more than three quarters of a million dollars under fradulent terms.
Street said: “This was deliberate and calculated fraud. Mr. Sinclair enriched himself by repeatedly using his church as a front to cheat public agencies out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money. The fact that much of this was done against the backdrop of two natural disasters is particularly reprehensible.”
Sinclair has not returned calls for comment.
After complaints by some residents of the treatment facility that they were being mistreated, Street said his office began its probe.
“We began the investigation and discovered Sinclair was in violation of the terms of several grants and that, yes, he was forcing many people who were court ordered to ATWH to build his residence,” Street said in a phone interview with the Zachary Plainsman-News on Monday, March 21.
Street’s report also indicates that Sinclair, acting on behalf of Miracle Place Church and All The Way House, submitted false information to several government agencies in order to access more than $750,000 in public funds that originate from the United States government and that administer payments and reimbursements. Funds, which Street says, were distributed by various departments of the State of Louisiana, the Dept. of Health and Hospitals and FEMA, among others.
“Because this involves numerous agencies that fall under the OIG jurisdiction, such as GOHSEP, DHH, Dept. of Child and Family Services, we had no choice but to investigate,” he said.
In Oct. 2009, with assistance from the FBI, Louisiana State Police and FEMA Office of Inspector General, Street and his team issued a search warrant which uncovered “pervasive, outrageous fraud.”
“The report is peppered with examples of how blatant the fraud is,” said Street.
Street said they uncovered everything from falsified information on grant applications to check fraud and dummy invoicing. “In many cases, invoices were manufactured on businesses that didn’t even exist and services never received or rendered,” Street said.
Sinclair’s original financial claim to the City of Baker for assistance from FEMA, after Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, was for $1.7 million, but Baker Mayor Harold Rideau identified a lot of that as “questionable”, says Street.
Rideau eventually reduced the amount received. “Even with this reduction, Mr. Sinclair falsely claimed at least $380,108 as Gustav related labor, food and equipment costs that neither he nor MPC actually incurred,” said Street.
Some of the investigation reveals the following:
•Sinclair and MPC staff, at Sinclair’s direction, made false statements on official FEMA labor documents, causing an overpayment for expenses related to the operation of a public shelter after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The false documents that Mr. Sinclair submitted resulted in an approximate overpayment of $81,000 in public funds.
•Sinclair and other ATWH staff members falsified DHH documents related to the halfway house’s application to become a state funded addiction service provider.
The report says Sinclair, his wife, and at least three other staff members concealed criminal convictions during the DHH application process. They ultimately received $258,000 in state and federal addiction services funds after having submitted the falsified forms.
•Sinclair and MPC staff, at his direction, falsified documents claiming that the church had provided teen abortion prevention training through a program called Life Choice Project. They presented these documents for payment to Caring to Love Ministries, a private manager of the publicly funded program.
This program is funded by the government and administered by the State of Louisiana. Interviews with Miracle Place Church youth pastors and persons listed as having received the training, revealed the training was not delivered. The false invoices resulted in Mr. Sinclair’s receiving $31,500 in public funds for work that was not performed.
Yet another claim in the report is that Sinclair exploited ATWH residents for personal economic gain by using them during the construction of his personal residence in Baker.