CHICAGO — A former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services social worker and 14 others have been indicted on federal charges for allegedly participating in a scheme to fraudulently obtain $3.2 million in state funds intended for childcare services.
Shauntele Pridgeon, 54, of Chicago, allegedly orchestrated the fraud scheme from 2016 to 2022 while serving as a Community Social Service Planner for the Department of Children Family Services (DCFS) in Chicago.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pridgeon fraudulently entered the information of several of her co-defendants into the DCFS computer system and approved them to be paid as providers caring for foster children, the indictment states.
Pridgeon directed at least $3.2 million in State of Illinois funds to the co-defendants and others, each of whom agreed to receive the money even though they knew that no foster children were actually in their care, the indictment states.
The co-defendants and others then paid bribes and kickbacks to Pridgeon totaling approximately $1.6 million, the indictment states.
Pridgeon allegedly used the bribe money to pay personal expenses, including gambling losses at a casino in Hammond, Indiana.
The indictment accuses each of Pridgeon’s co-defendants of accepting various amounts of state money for the nonexistent childcare services.
Latasha Thomas, 48, of Chicago, received more than $1.6 million and Tracey Jervier, 60, of Chicago, received more than $695,000, the indictment states.
Ronnie Webb, 57, of South Holland, received more than $228,000, which was paid by checks made payable to “Webb Feet Child Care Inc.,” a bogus company that listed its address as Webb’s residence, the indictment states.
Pridgeon, Thomas, Jervier, Webb, along with Joi Sanderson, 49, of Frankfort; Keicha Lacey, 50, of Country Club Hills; Marissa Terry, 36, of Frankfort, and Kelli Payne, 49, of Hammond, Indiana, were all charged with honest services wire fraud.
Chicago residents 50-year-old Tahndrea Harper, 44-year-old Aunsheree Nelson, 39-year-old Aramis Collier, 54-year-old Christina Davis, 45-year-old Sherri Baines, 37-year-old Shenita McGary, andd 53-year-old Nikki Giovanni Houston were also charged with honest services wire fraud.
Most of the defendants were arrested Wednesday and have begun making federal court appearances.