Owner of tutoring firm arrested in fraud scheme

caines | 11/16/2011, 5:28 a.m.

M-DCPS paid Robinson almost one million dollars for services never rendered

If you go to the website for Divine Sports, it appears to be a reputable, after-school business that works with student-athletes who are having trouble in the classroom. But after an 18-month long investigation, led by the Miami-Dade Inspector Generals Office and the County State Attorneys Office, the companys owner, Erika Robinson, has been arrested and charged with 45 counts of identity theft, grand theft and an organized scheme to defraud. It is alleged that Robinson first pawned herself off as a kids sporting activities company in 2005. However, she soon switched her focus and supposed program to after-school tutoring a far more lucrative venture. Investigators have revealed that many of the students she claimed to tutor were actually phantom students and that in truth almost no after-tutoring ever took place. In her arrest warrant, it states that Robinson took advantage of students from at least five different schools, including Miami Central and Miami Northwestern. In some instances she created false progress reports and attendance records to justify payment. Further records show that while she earned $6,975 in 2008-2009, the first year that Divine Sports functioned as a tutoring company, she raked in $951,460 just one year later. Neither Robinson nor the companys corporate officers have spoken. But Robinsons attorney, Larry Handfield, says his client is prepared to accept responsibility for her actions. She is not trying to dodge the situation, Handfield said. She is owing up . . . for anything that may have went wrong. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says that tutoring programs, like the one to which Robinson attached herself and her company, are difficult to oversee at the local school district level. Divine took advantage of a federal program that employs private companies to tutor children. It appears she also billed the same program for hundreds of thousands of dollars for services that were never provided. . . . very little accountability and a great deal of money [ ] are two ingredients that spell disaster, Carvalho said. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com