Former day care owner pleads guilty to stealing from state - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Former day care owner pleads guilty to stealing from state

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Lavonia Lewars in court on February 26. Lavonia Lewars in court on February 26.
Steve Simpson Steve Simpson
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balenovich Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balenovich
The wreckage of the Heavenly Angels Child Care Center van in June 2012. The wreckage of the Heavenly Angels Child Care Center van in June 2012.
One location of the now closed Heavenly Angels Child Care Center One location of the now closed Heavenly Angels Child Care Center

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A former Louisville day care owner could be going to prison.

Tuesday, Lavonia Lewars pleaded guilty to theft and fraud charges for getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state for kids who never attended her Heavenly Angels day care.

Most of us know Lewars and her Heavenly Angels Child Care Center because of the van crash on Algonquin Parkway in June 2012 that killed an adult monitor and sent more than a dozen children to the hospital.

Her guilty plea Tuesday is a day that WAVE 3 showed you was a long time coming. It was 2011 when Troubleshooter Eric Flack revealed his investigation into concerns about safety and how quickly Lewars day care was increasing the amount of money it got from the state for low income children. He ran into inspector Steve Simpson, who it turns out, was building a case against Lewars.

"The children she was billing for, she couldn't show us they actually attended the day care," Simpson said Tuesday, after Lewars' guilty plea.

Outside of the courtroom, Simpson said what he found was a clear case of fraud. 

"Certain red flags sort of popped up and she had a capacity in one of her day cares of 29 children," said Simpson. "She was billing in excess of 100, so the math just didn't add up."

Now prosecutors say they'll be asking for prison.

"Everyone, every taxpayer is a victim," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Balenovich.

Lewars and her attorney left the courtroom without saying a word.  Prosecutors hope the message from her plea will be loud and clear to other day cares that may be doing the same thing.

"It's more common than what you think," Simpson said. "It happens on a regular basis."

Simpson said he has other investigations ongoing into other day cares but can't talk about them right now.

Lewars' sentence will be up to Judge Barry Willett, but she'll likely have to pay back $205,000 and could face ten years behind bars. Her sentencing date is April 30.

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