The founder of a private tutoring company has been charged with billing the Philadelphia School District for $18,801 in tutoring services she did not provide.

Caroline Brooker McGrath, founder and president of Avante Tutoring Services, 8012 Castor Ave., is facing several charges, including theft, forgery and receiving stolen property.

McGrath, 43, of Glenside, turned herself in at the Police Department's Major Crimes Unit on Tuesday after learning an arrest warrant had been issued.

"We are looking for complete exoneration," David M. Walker, her attorney, said yesterday. "She and her organization have helped hundreds of kids over the years in the Philadelphia School District and she looks forward to returning to do that."

She is scheduled to be arraigned in Municipal Court on Monday.

John F. Downs, the district's inspector general, began investigating McGrath's tutoring company six weeks ago after a district administrator who oversees tutoring reported possible problems. Marie Bonner, who had sent a survey to parents whose children were supposed to be receiving tutoring services, said some indicated their children had not received the tutoring Avante listed on its bills.

During the probe, investigators reviewed student sign-in sheets for a two-month period in the fall and interviewed 23 students and parents, Downs said.

The district alleges that some of the children had left the program, although the district was still being billed. In other instances, the company charged the district for more hours and days than it provided.

This is the fourth time an investigation by the inspector general's office has resulted in the arrest of a private tutoring operator in the last five years.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district would spend about $1.8 million this academic year to provide private tutoring for 1,663 students to help them raise math and reading scores.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, low-income students at 120 district schools classified as "low performing" schools are eligible to receive the tutoring help, he said.

The state Department of Education issues a list of approved tutoring firms.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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