A father pleaded guilty to lesser charges while all charges were dropped against a mother after the two were accused of “stealing education” for their 5-year-old daughter.
In August of 2012, Hamlet and Olesia Garcia were both arrested and charged with sending their daughter to Pine Hill Elementary school in Lower Moreland Township, Montgomery County while she lived in Philadelphia.
In March of 2012, officials with the Lower Moreland Township School District received information that the Garcias’ daughter, who was attending Pine Hill, actually lived in Philadelphia. School officials said that records indicated the girl and her parents lived together at an address on Brookdale Avenue in Huntingdon Valley, Lower Moreland Township. However, the district claimed that the family actually lived on Philmont Terrace in Philadelphia. While the Philadelphia home is only about a mile away from Pine Hill Elementary, it’s still located in a different district.
Prosecutors claimed that the family had lived in their Philadelphia home since 2004 and that at no time did they ever live in Lower Moreland. Officials accused the couple of fraudulently reporting that they lived at the home of Olesia’s father in Huntingdon Valley in order to send their child to Pine Hill.
Prosecutors say the Garcia’s never paid the Lower Moreland school taxes but still obtained the same education for their daughter paid for with those taxes. According to officials, this led to a loss of $10,752.81 for the year for the Lower Moreland School District.
Officials say the loss was calculated based on the Pennsylvania Department of Education tuition rate for the Lower Moreland School District, which is $58.97 per student per day. Officials say tuition cost for the students are paid for with school taxes of those who live within the school district.
The Garcia family maintained their innocence. They claimed that their daughter lived in the Lower Moreland area for 8 months while attending Pine Hill before moving back to Philadelphia. The Garcias say they still kept their daughter enrolled in Pine Hill after the move so that she would have continued access to a good education.
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The case gained national attention, bringing in supporters for the Garcias as well as advocates for families seeking better educational opportunities for their children.
“It’s been a difficult time for me and my family,” Hamlet Garcia said during a court appearance on Tuesday. “I have trust we can do the right things in this case.”
The judge gave the Garcias three options to avoid conviction and seven years in prison. They were told they could contest the discrepancy at an administrative hearing, pay back the money owed or withdraw their daughter from the district.
Hamlet ended up paying back the money owed, according to a family publicist. He was ordered to pay a $100 fine as well as $10,752.81 for one year of school tuition. All charges against Olesia were completely dropped however.