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Baltimore job training center raided by feds has gotten hundreds of thousands in grants, is run by convicted thief

Federal law enforcement agents fanned out Thursday across Baltimore, raiding City Hall, Mayor Catherine Pugh's house and several other locations as the investigation into her business dealings widened.

The job training nonprofit raided Thursday by federal agents as part of an investigation into Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is run by an executive director who was convicted of stealing $852,000 from a previous employer, court records show.

The Maryland Center for Adult Training, also known as MCAT, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade from city, state and federal government agencies to provide training for men and women to become certified nurse assistants and medical technicians.

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Since Pugh became mayor in December 2016, the city has awarded the organization $28,649 — mostly from a federal Department of Labor program and local casino money — to provide nurse training through last June. But MCAT’s approval to conduct that training expired in May, according to the Maryland Board of Nursing.

The nonprofit has not reapplied for certification. Nonetheless, Baltimore officials agreed in October to lease MCAT an office in the 4900 block of Park Heights Ave. — which federal agents raided Thursday. Documents prepared for the city’s spending board, which approved the lease Oct. 3, stated that MCAT was “certified by the Maryland Board” to train people to become nursing assistants.

Podcast: Questions we still have after the FBI raid

Officials at the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, which oversees the city’s agreements with MCAT, did not respond to requests for comment.

Pugh sat on MCAT’s board of directors from as early as 2001 through 2017 — most recently as its chairwoman, according to government records. During that time she served as a City Council member, a state delegate, a state senator and Baltimore mayor.

Three people listed as board members on MCAT’s website — Gary Brown Jr., Poetri Deal and Afra Vance-White — had city government jobs in the Pugh administration until Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young fired them this week.

State records show that Roslyn Wedington has been an administrator at MCAT since July 2013, and she became executive director two years later.

Wedington was previously known as Roslyn Hebron, her married name until she divorced in 2009, government records show. In 2004, Hebron pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to theft of $851,167 while working as a bookkeeper and secretary for a prominent Park Heights dentist, Dr. Ernest Colvin, who died in 2015. She was ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution and received a seven-year suspended sentence and five years of supervised probation. She violated her probation by failing to pay the $200,000 in restitution, court records show.

“Between January 1996 and June 15, 2002, she stole $851,167 from Dr. Colvin’s accounts,” according to court documents. “She accomplished this by writing checks to herself or her creditors and putting a different name and amount on the check register. She would give the checks to Dr. Colvin to sign with a smaller amount and then add a thousand to it.”

Because “Hebron reconciled the checking account, she was able to cover the theft.”

“The theft was discovered when Dr. Colvin came in on a Saturday and opened his bank statement and found several very large checks written to Roslyn Hebron that he did not authorize,” court records state.

Baltimore city’s current inspector general, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, worked on the case when she was a prosecutor in the Baltimore State’s Attorney office. Cumming is currently investigating contracts approved by the city’s spending board since Pugh has been mayor. The city awarded funds to MCAT during that period.

Wedington did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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The raids Thursday by federal agents of Pugh’s home, the MCAT offices, Brown’s home and other sites associated with the mayor came as the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office has been investigating her sales of “Healthy Holly” children's books to various nonprofits and companies that do business with the city. While she sat on the board of directors for the University of Maryland Medical System, Pugh sold 100,000 copies of the book to the hospital network for $500,000 in a no-bid deal.

It is not known what prompted federal agents to raid MCAT’s offices. A federal subpoena delivered Thursday at City Hall specifically requested documents from the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development relating to MCAT.

The Maryland Center for Adult Training has been a fixture in the job-training market in Baltimore since as far back as 1998, when it was incorporated as the Maryland Center for Arts & Technology and had its offices at the Hoffberger Foundation in Towson.

Its original board included LeRoy E. Hoffberger, the Baltimore philanthropist and co-founder of the American Visionary Art Museum, and former state schools superintendent Nancy Grasmick, according to state records.

Pugh appears on the group’s federal tax forms as a board member beginning in 2001. The resident agent for the nonprofit listed in state incorporation documents changed to Pugh in 2006, according to state records that contain Pugh’s signature.

MCAT is regulated as a professional career school by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Commission records show MCAT has placed nursing assistants at several area hospitals, including the University of Maryland Medical Center, the UMMS flagship.

MCAT also is approved by the state Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation as an “eligible training provider,” which means it can receive federal funding administered by the mayor’s employment development office. Separately, from 2015 through 2018, the state labor department provided MCAT with $177,075 for nursing assistant training.

Octavia Dove (left) and Sheikess Lyles-El (right) showed up at the Maryland Center for Adult Training to find it closed Thursday.
Octavia Dove (left) and Sheikess Lyles-El (right) showed up at the Maryland Center for Adult Training to find it closed Thursday. (Lloyd Fox)

The nonprofit changed its name to the Maryland Center for Adult Training on July 12, 2013, according to state records. That’s when Roslyn Wedington is listed as an officer of the organization.

One of MCAT’s other supporters has been the Abell Foundation. Since 2000, Abell has provided MCAT $747,000 as part of its work supporting job training and adult education programs serving Baltimore residents, an Abell spokeswoman said.

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The most recent grant was awarded in December 2018 in the amount of $40,000 over two years.

Abell vice president Sheryl Goldstein said the organization was not aware of Hebron’s past conviction and that MCAT always delivered the training it was paid to provide. She noted that Abell has supported many programs that provide second chances to ex-offenders.

“We’ve always believed that they were doing what they said they’re doing,” Goldstein said. “We’ve done site visits.”

“I was surprised to see” that federal agents had raided the MCAT offices, she added.

She said, however, that failing to be certified by the state would violate MCAT’s grant agreement.

MCAT has run into trouble with the federal government in the past.

The IRS revoked the nonprofit’s tax exempt status on Nov. 15, 2015, and reinstated it on Aug. 31, 2017. During those years there are no tax forms filed by MCAT to detail its operations.

Pugh has generally been open about her association with MCAT.

She reported her unpaid seat on the MCAT board on nine years of financial disclosure forms filed with the state ethics commission from 2008 through 2016.

“I sit on several non-profit Boards in the community of which I received no compensation,” Pugh wrote on her annual disclosure forms as a state senator. She then listed several groups, including the University of Maryland Medical System, the Maryland Center for Adult Training and the Maryland Center for Arts & Technology.

But Pugh did not report her position as chair of the MCAT board on her city ethics form filed for 2017, after her first year as mayor. MCAT’s annual report submitted to the Maryland Higher Education Commission states she chaired the board that year.

Pugh did not abstain from voting when the city spending board she controls approved contracts with MCAT. The city’s ethics law prohibits public officials from participating in “any matter” with business entities for which public officials serve as board members.

City ethics rules require elected and government officials to disclose board seats with “entities doing business with the city.”

Two of the other board members who were employed by the city also did not disclose their MCAT board seats.

Vance-White — who with Pugh and City Comptroller Joan Pratt owns a now-closed consignment store called 2 Chic Boutique — did not report her MCAT board seat, nor did Deal. Brown did not file ethics forms.

MCAT’s most recent federal tax form contains one odd entry. Nonprofits are required to report to the IRS any loans that organizations make to its employees or board members.

MCAT reported that it had provided a loan to someone named Roslyn Reddington who is described as being an MCAT “director.” It does not detail how much the loan was for, whether the board voted on it and how much of a balance remains.

There is no director listed in the tax documents by that name. Only the executive director, Roslyn R. Wedington, shares any part of that name.

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