For the fourth time since 2004, an owner of a private tutoring company doing business with the Philadelphia School District has been arrested for allegedly stealing from taxpayers.
Caroline Brooker, 41, founder and chief executive of Avante Tutoring, was accompanied by her attorney yesterday morning, when she turned herself in at the police major-crimes unit.
Her arrest followed an investigation by the school district's inspector general, Jack Downs, who said he found that Brooker had billed the district for $18,810 for tutoring sessions that she did not perform last fall.
In 17 cases, he said, signatures of parents and children were forged on paperwork that Brooker submitted to the district. Three of the 17 children received no tutoring, and Brooker overstated the lengths of service given to the others, Downs said.
Brooker, 41, of Glenside, was charged with three counts of felony theft, one count of felony forgery, one count of felony deceptive practices and one count of security execution, a misdemeanor.
A Daily News phone message left at Brooker's tutoring business, on Castor Avenue below Rhawn Street, in Northeast Philadelphia, was not returned.
This school year, Brooker's company submitted $61,892 in invoices for tutoring 42 children. Two checks totaling $15,899 are being held pending the outcome of her case, district officials said.
Avante Tutoring is one of 23 companies that provided tutoring services to district students between November and late March to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
This school year, 1,663 district students signed up for tutoring from the 23 private companies that were approved to participate in the program by the state Department of Education.
Brooker's company began participating during the first year of the program, was dropped by the state in 2007-08 for failing to pass a review process and was approved to resume services this school year, said Marie Bonner, the district official who oversees the tutoring program.
Downs was tipped off about Brooker by Bonner, after her office received surprising information from routine surveys sent to homes of students after the tutoring program ends. Some parents said their children had not received the services they were supposed to have had.
Of the other cases involving tutoring providers, one has yet to come to trial, another was dismissed and a third defendant was ordered to pay restitution, Bonner said.