Fmr. Heavenly Angels day care owner pleads guilt to theft, fraud


by Adam Walser

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 6:18 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The former owner of Heavenly Angels Daycare Center pleaded guilty to felony charges in Jefferson County Circuit Court Tuesday.
Lavonia Lewars, who was charged with fraud and theft, now faces a possible ten years in prison after admitting to stealing more than $200,000 from taxpayers.
This is a case that the Kentucky Office of Inspector General began investigating early last year after receiving an anonymous tip that Lewars was over-billing the state.
The case was not presented to a grand jury until after a van crash killed one of her daycare center's employees and injured a dozen children.
Tuesday marked the beginning of the end for Lavonia Lewars’ legal troubles.
WHAS11 first reported about the ongoing investigation within days of a deadly daycare van crash.
Records showed Lewars received $125,000 a month from the state and routinely over-billed a taxpayer funded childcare subsidy program.
“In most instances, Ms. Lewars would over-bill for children who were enrolled but never attended her daycare,” the judge read from the indictment.
The state earlier determined Lewars defrauded the program of more than $222,000.
Documents showed she billed the state for 134 children at a center with a capacity of just 40.
As part of the plea agreement, Lewars admitted stealing most of that money and agreed to pay restitution.
“She stole $205,000 that we can show through this action. And that's very significant,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney John Balenovich. “Everyone, every taxpayer is the victim. “
Lewars also agreed to pay back S.K.S. Accounting Service, which advanced her money.
She allegedly took those funds by writing an $82,000 check made out to cash two days after the van crash.
State officials say Lewars is far from the only daycare center owner suspected of stealing money meant to help low income families obtain daycare.
“It's more common than what you think. It happens on a regular basis,” Steve Simpson, an investigator for the Kentucky Office of Inspector General, said.
Lewars will be back in court on April 30 for sentencing.
The state is asking for her to serve 10 years in prison, while her attorney is asking for probation.
“Ultimately, the court makes the decision whether she goes to jail. We're going to be asking for her to go to jail,” Balenovich said.
Neither Lewars nor her attorney had any comments when she left the courtroom Tuesday.
The Inspector General’s Office confirmed there are currently several ongoing local investigations involving daycare subsidy fraud.