FDLE today arrested Lissette Orta, 47, of Miramar for one count of grand theft and one count of organized scheme to defraud. She is the fifth person to be arrested for stealing from the Step Up program, which administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income, full-time students.
The investigation began when the Miami-Dade Police Department shared a complaint with FDLE received in August 2015 in regards to a Miami-Dade County employee, Antonio Linen. Linen was alleged to be using another person’s identification to receive financial funding from the Step Up program. He was arrested for grand theft and booked into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on March 1, 2016. This case is being prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, 11th Judicial Circuit.
In May 2016, FDLE received information from the Florida Department of Education (DOE) that Andrea Velandia, owner of World of Learning Academy, was receiving Florida Tax Credit subsidies through Step Up for students not actually enrolled at the school. In February 2017, Velandia was arrested for one count of grand theft and booked into the Broward County Jail. In March 2017, FDLE also arrested Silke Angulo, an employee of Velandia’s school, for one count of grand theft. This case is being prosecuted by the Broward County State Attorney’s Special Prosecutions unit.
In April 2017, FDLE received information from DOE alleging that the Urban Academy and the subsidiary schools owned by Corey Lamont Alston, of Broward County, had defrauded the Gardiner Scholarship Program which is administered by Step Up. The Gardiner scholarship monies were to be used to meet the special needs of disabled students. It was further alleged that Alston had overseen the filing of fraudulent applications for the Gardiner scholarship monies in the amount of approximately $559,645. On July 2, 2019, Cory Alston was arrested, charged with one count of grand theft and one count of organized scheme to defraud and booked into the Broward County Jail. This case is also being prosecuted by the Broward County State Attorney’s Special Prosecutions Unit.
In October 2017, allegations were made that led agents to request information from DOE regarding possible fraud committed by Lissette Orta, 47, of Miramar, through her school, Kids Palace Day Care. Orta owned Kids Palace Day Care and collected Step Up benefits on behalf of students in attendance. She submitted applications on behalf of the students which contained fraudulent documents stating that the students were attending full-time courses of study to receive scholarship funds. Step Up sent checks to Kids Palace, which were deposited in Orta’s bank account, totaling $130,249.00 from 2016-2017. The investigation also found that Orta instructed other individuals on how to defraud Florida scholarship programs.
Orta was arrested today and booked into Miami-Dade Jail. Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute.