Suburban father, son charged with education fraud

Jowhar Soultanali, director of operations for Brilliance Academy Inc., and his son, Kabir Kassam, who is president, pocketed $8 million to $13.6 million for themselves and their families from the more than $33 million they fraudulently obtained from about 200 school districts around the country, including in Illinois, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.

Soultanali, 58, of Morton Grove, and Kassam, 34, of Wheeling, were each charged with mail fraud and federal program bribery.

Also indicted on one count each of federal program bribery were Arturo Martinez, 52, an educational administrator with the New Mexico Public Education Department; Cedric Petersen, 61, an assistant principal at Fox Tech High School in San Antonio; Armando Rodriguez, 54, a tutoring coordinator at Miller High School in Corpus Christi, Texas; and Brian Harris, 33, an official at Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, prosecutors said.

Soultanali, Kassam, Brilliance Academy and its subsidiary, Babbage Net School Inc., misrepresented the nature and quality of the tutoring services the companies provided between 2008 and 2012, the indictment charged.

In reality, the businesses provided substandard supplemental educational materials to students, falsely inflated invoices the companies submitted to school districts for purported tutoring services and created and distributed false student progress and improvement reports, prosecutors said.

The indictment seeks forfeiture from the father, son and the two companies of the more than $33 million defrauded in the scheme. Authorities already seized about $1.77 million from the companies’ bank accounts or relinquished by Babbage.

Authorities also want to take control of Soultanali’s and Kassam’s residences, three additional condominiums, five luxury automobiles, six whole life insurance policies and a trove of diamond jewelry purchased in 2009.

All eight defendants – the six individuals and two companies – will be arraigned later in U.S. District Court in Chicago. 

jmeisner@tribune.com

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