Five employees of a government agency designed to sniff out fraud and abuse in federal programs were charged yesterday with defrauding and abusing the federal reduced-price school meal program, quite literally stealing lunch money from less-fortunate kids, NBC 4 reports. As the Washington Post reports, the five Government Accountability Office employees—one of whom is also a school-board member in Prince George's County, Maryland—are charged with theft, fraud, and filing false applications for allegedly lying about their incomes to qualify their children for cheap or free school lunches over the past four years at a cost to the government of approximately $13,000. "This is a program for people who can’t afford it, but these are people who can," says a rep from the state attorney's office.
A sixth person, the husband of another GAO employee, was also charged in the case. The alleged fraud was found by the GAO in 2014 during a routine check of the lunch program, NBC 4 reports. A GEO spokesperson says it was "disappointed and surprised" to find its own employees abusing a federal program. The Post reports the salaries of those charged range from $55,000 to $78,000 per year, "well above" the level needed to qualify for discounted or free school lunches. And, this might not be the extent of the problem. The 2014 GAO audit showed up to 300 federal employees may be gaming the federal lunch program. The agency is continuing to investigate.