A Duncan technology and education company and its founders have reached a settlement deal with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding allegations of fraudulent claims to an assistance program that forced a rural school district to pay the government thousands of dollars.
According to a Sept. 8 press release from U.S. Attorney Robert Troester of Oklahoma’s western district, Omega Technologies Center, Inc. and its founders, Todd and Kristie Greenway, agreed to pay $54,000 to settle a civil case against them.
The settlement agreement, embedded below, was signed by the Greenways on July 18 and by Troester on Aug. 24
Though neither the Greenways nor Omega admitted fault with the settlement, they were accused of “(submitting) invoices for payment to USAC under the E-Rate program for goods and services that were never provided to the Fort Towson school district for the 2010 and 2012 E-Rate years,” according to the release.
Through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the Federal Communications Commission administers its E-rate program to help schools in primarily impoverished areas by subsidizing costs for broadband access in school classrooms and libraries. Through the program, technology companies such as Omega can install telecommunications equipment for schools and get reimbursed for all or part of the cost of installation.
Fort Towson is located in Choctaw County, 15 miles east of Hugo in southeast Oklahoma.
Current Fort Towson Public Schools Superintendent Phil Hall said the district was unaware of the claims Omega made to USAC in 2010 and 2012 until USAC conducted an audit which showed Omega had requested payment for services it never provided to the district.
“As far as I know [USAC] just showed up in our district one time and wanted to view the equipment,” said Hall, who was a principal in the district at the time.
The company claimed it provided “network equipment” to Fort Towson, but Hall said the district eventually received the equipment and services from another vendor.
As a result of Omega’s claims, Hall said Fort Towson Public Schools was left on the hook for the $55,000 reimbursement Omega had received from USAC.
“What [the settlement] doesn’t allude to is the fact that USAC required the district to pay back that amount of $55,000,” Hall said. “So my concern is will we ever get to see that money returned back to us?”
The settlement agreement states that Omega and the Greenways will pay $54,000 to the United States government.
Hall said that while FTPS had previous valid contracts with Omega that had been completed, the district would not be working with Omega in the future.
As part of the settlement, Omega cannot “participate in any FCC program administered by the USAC for a period of three years or until the settlement amount is paid in full, whichever occurs later.”
While the Oklahoma Secretary of State lists Omega’s status as “in existence” on its website, the company’s website and phone numbers appear to be inactive. A Facebook page for the company has not posted since 2018.
Hall said he did not know if Omega is still operating.
Education dollars under federal microscope
The Omega settlement is not the only federal investigation into Oklahoma education-related spending to make headlines this year.
In July, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General released an audit recommending Oklahoma give back hundreds of thousands of dollars in misspent coronavirus relief funds and asking for an additional $5.5 million be reviewed for unauthorized purchases.
The audit reviewed items bought using Oklahoma’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) money that the federal government provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Auditors found that parents spent much of the money on items consider non-educational and blamed officials in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration for not properly monitoring how families spent the funds.