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updated: 10/23/2017 5:25 PM

Wheeling man, father sent to prison for fraud

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A Wheeling man and his father, who together ran a pair of tutoring companies, were sentenced to federal prison Monday in connection with an $11 million fraud scheme.

Kabir Kassam, 38, of Wheeling, was sentenced to five years and 10 months, and his father, Jowhar Soultanali, 62, of Morton Grove, received a six-year sentence. Both pleaded guilty last year to one count of mail fraud.

Federal officials say that from 2008 to 2012, the father and son fraudulently obtained funds from more than 100 school districts, including in Illinois, by misrepresenting their companies' tutoring services and falsely inflating invoices for work that was never done.

They also were found to have paid bribes to school officials and teachers to make sure the fraud wasn't detected, officials said. Such bribes included a Caribbean cruise for an assistant principal in Texas and an outing to a gentlemen's club for a state education official in New Mexico.

Soultanali was director of operations and Kassam was president of Brilliance Academy Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Babbage Net School Inc. in Niles.

According to the charges, they furnished school districts with false applications and marketing materials that fraudulently inflated their companies' services. The companies falsely stated they provided pretesting of enrolled students, created customized tutoring programs, provided ongoing progress reports to schools and parents, and compiled accurate student improvement results after tutoring was completed.

The two companies received a total of $33 million from more than 100 school districts and small schools throughout the U.S.

The investigation also resulted in criminal charges against the two men's companies, and three school officials in Texas and the state education official in New Mexico who accepted the bribes.

"Defendants abused the trust that the Department of Education placed in them to carry out a massive fraud that was not merely extensive, but also egregious," assistant U.S. attorneys Kruti Trivedi and Barry Jonas wrote in the government's sentencing memorandum. "The fraud in this case had a significant impact on both the failing school districts that allocated their federal funds to defendants and on the students at those school districts."