State releases details into investigation of day care owner


by Bryan Baker

Posted on July 27, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 28 at 12:01 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A more than 1,400 page Kentucky Office of the Inspector General investigation into Heavenly Angels Childcare owner Lavonia Lewars was the fuel for the indictment against her in Louisville last week.

The state released details of the report, including interviews and names of 16 former day care employees and parents of kids signed up to go there.

Lewars was indicted of theft and fraud for allegedly falsely obtaining more than $300,000 in public assistance -- gained as payment for care provided to low-income families qualifying for state-funded childcare. The money is an overpayment for kids that, according to a more than year-long investigation, didn't go there for a certain time.

The charges came out a month after her day care van crashed in June on Algonquin Parkway, killing day care monitor Tiffany Belk and injuring 14 young children.

One mother and employee exclusively talked to WHAS11 and says she was approached for a deal: sign two of her kids up for Heavenly Angels but they wouldn't go there. In turn she'd be paid $200 a month. One child of hers did attend.

The state report found Lewars was paid more than $9,000 by the state -- taxpayer money -- for those kids alone last year.

The report shows Lewars got spooked about the deal when an employee's corrections officers visited the day care to check on her job there, leading to her ending the deal with the woman.

To be eligible for state childcare money a parent has to work part time.

The report concludes Lewars had dozens on the payroll, including 70 Somali refugees working at the day care so Lewars could sign up their kids. That's even though the daycare was only licensed for 40 kids.
In the report the woman says Lewars got her employees to sell her food stamps which went to buy food for the kids. She also says employees weren't paid overtime.

Lewars still hasn't commented since the crash. Her arraignment was pushed back a week, and she's expected in court next week. Lewars' attornies also want to be removed the case, according to the law firm.

To hear the parent and employee's comments -- click on the video player.