Two Omaha business owners have been charged with theft for allegedly spending $49,000 mistakenly deposited into their child care center's account by the Nebraska Department of Education.
A six-month investigation by the State Patrol led to this week's arrests of Cassandra Wright, 28, and Chudney Knave, 29, owners of Bright Futures Learning & Care in north Omaha. Each of them was charged with felony theft of lost, mislaid items.
Susan Reff, attorney for Wright, said the two women turned themselves in when they learned arrest warrants had been issued.
The money was intended for the Bright Futures Foundation, which helps low-income high school students prepare for college. The foundation has since received the money, said a spokeswoman for the Education Department.
According to the State Patrol:
The state agency discovered in March 2011 that money intended for another group had been wrongly deposited into the account for Bright Futures Learning & Care. Over the next eight months, the department tried to get the money back.
The State Patrol got involved in November and determined that the $49,000 was being transferred from the child care's business account to personal accounts. The transfers continued until the entire amount was spent.
Reff said Bright Futures Learning & Care, near 45th Street and Bedford Avenue, cares for low-income children who qualify for government subsidies, which the state deposits directly into the center's bank account. The business has continued to receive state funding during the investigation, she said.
The amount of state money deposited into the center's account depends on the number of children under its care.
Reff said she could not say why a $49,000 mistake didn't raise questions with the care center's owners: “That's a really good question that we don't have an answer to."
But, she said, all the money was spent on “legitimate business expenses.”
Both women have been working with the state to return the funds, Reff said. “They're willing to work with anybody” to resolve the issue.
Wright and Knave remained in jail Friday.
World-Herald staff writers Roseann Moring and Sam Womack contributed to this report.
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