State: Two Memphis organizations lied about feeding children in need, received thousands in federal funds

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two Memphis organizations have been accused by state officials of falsifying reports regarding children in need in order to receive federal funds.

According to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, Red Robins Academy of Learning (RRAL) and Giving Youth a Chance (GYAC) summited reimbursement forms to the state claiming to have participated in the Summer Food Service Program in the summer of 2018.

RRAL obtained more than $19,500 in federal funding after claiming to have operated two sites that fed thousands of meals to low-income children.

Surveillance video showed they didn’t feed a single child, state authorities said.

The same was reportedly true for GYAC who received more than $17,600.

The Summer Food Service Program is run by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The program is a federally funded initiative that is administered at the state level, finding groups across Tennessee that can feed children with school out of session.

Red Robin’s academy and giving youth a chance were supposed to be two Memphis-based groups that took care of children. But auditors began to get suspicious after reviewing financial records.

“They’re required to fill out meal count forms,” John Dunn, the Director of Communications for Comptroller of Treasury, said. “A lot of times you can spot suspicious activity just by looking at those forms. For example, the same number of kids are being fed every day. Or, the forms have been photocopied, and all that’s been changed is the date at the top.”

Dunn said both Red Robin’s Academy and Giving Youth A Chance submitted forms with those types of red flags. During the summer of 2018, they were responsible for a combined 64 feeding sites and received more than $527,000.

So, the state government worked with Memphis Police to set up surveillance at these locations. They found various offenses, from zero children being served at apartment complexes and churches, to thousands of lunches and snacks being falsified.

“I think it is very disturbing when you see this type of activity,” Dunn said. “We count on the fact that these organizations are feeding hungry kids. And when instead, they’re putting money in their own pocket, that’s troubling.”

WREG-TV called the groups and visited the sites and did not find any evidence of these groups. Nevertheless, the communities are in great need. The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has filed their reports, now these cases are in the hands of law enforcement.

“Our office has given these two reports to both the US Attorney’s office and the local district attorney’s office. And it will be up to those offices to determine whether or not any criminal prosecution is warranted,” Dunn said.

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