Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced charges against a former high-ranking Department of Public Welfare (DPW) official and the CEO and chief financial officer of the Philadelphia welfare-to-work nonprofit National Comprehensive Center for Fathers (NCCF) for their roles in a scheme that resulted in the theft of $1.25 million in grant funding designated to help fathers improve their lives for the benefit of their children.
Kane said evidence and testimony was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the charges that were filed today against Bryon Noon, former director of DPW’s now disbanded Bureau of Employment and Training Programs Division (BETP); Lawrence Yancey aka Kofi Asante, NCCF CEO; and Anthony McNeil, NCCF CFO.
“This is a case about whistle-blowers, who did the right thing in coming forward. They spoke up to protect needy individuals who deserved a new lease on life and family,” said Attorney General Kane.
The investigation began in 2011 when three whistle-blowers brought to DPW’s attention the egregious misuse of state and federal grant funding, prompting the department to conduct two separate audits of NCCF.
“This is also a case about arrogance, about a former public official gone bad, and about the greed of those we charged today. They stole from the very fathers and ultimately the children they had a duty to assist,” said Attorney General Kane.
As director of BETP, Noon was tasked with disbursing millions of dollars each year to welfare-to-work organizations such as NCCF. He allegedly enabled NCCF to operate with no fiscal oversight; and surrounded himself with inexperienced or subservient staff who would not question him, according to the grand jury.
Through its core program the “Fatherhood Initiative,” 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 presentment. 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.
The defendants will be prosecuted in Dauphin County by Senior Deputy Attorneys General Susan DiGiacomo and John Flannery of the Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section.
Below is a list of the defendants and the charges filed against them:
Bryon Noon, 45, 718 Farmingdale Road, 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.
In addition, he is charged with three counts of failure to disclose his office, directorship or employment in a business entity, each a misdemeanor; and four counts of failure to disclose his financial interest in a legal entity engaging in a business for profit, also misdemeanors. Each of the seven misdemeanors under the Act carries a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a maximum fine of $1,000.
If convicted of all counts, Noon faces a maximum sentence of 53 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $106,000.
Lawrence Yancey aka Kofi Asante, 61, 4417 Riverview Lane, 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. Each of the 11 counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 7 years and a maximum fine of $15,000.
If convicted of all counts, Asante faces a maximum sentence of 77 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $165,000.
Anthony McNeil, 62, 9 Cedar Grove Drive, Sicklerville, NJ, 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. Each of the 11 counts carries a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years and a maximum fine of $15,000.
If convicted of all counts, McNeil faces a maximum sentence of 77 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $165,000.