Mokena woman learns sentence after buying Bentley Bentayga, house with $3.3M in fraudulent funds

The owner of three Chicago-area child care centers has been handed a four-year federal prison sentence for illegally securing over $3.3 million in Illinois state subsidies aimed at aiding low-income families with child care costs.

Aleesha McDowell, 44, of Mokena, pleaded guilty last year to a federal wire fraud offense. 

McDowell was the proprietor of multiple childcare facilities: A&A Kiddy Kollege Inc. in Calumet City, A&A Kiddy College 2 in Calumet Park, and Kreative Kidz Academy Inc., Kreative Kidz Academy II Inc., and Kreative Kidz Academy III Inc. in Chicago.

Between 2012 and 2020, McDowell collaborated with her centers' directors and others to deceive the Illinois Department of Human Services' Child Care Assistance Program. They submitted falsified applications, containing fraudulent paystubs and income verification letters, to secure state subsidy payments. Some of the applications also falsely claimed that parents were employed by McDowell's centers, meeting the state's requirement for fund recipients to be either in school or employed while earning below a specific household income threshold.

As a result of the scheme, McDowell and her associates received over $3.3 million in subsidy payments for services supposedly rendered to ineligible children. McDowell utilized some of these illicit funds to purchase a Bentley Bentayga and a residence in Mokena.

Alongside the prison term, U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah mandated McDowell to reimburse $3,339,563 in restitution. 

Seven other defendants implicated in the investigation also pleaded guilty to federal charges.