Bravo to The New York Times for exposing  Cheon Park (on the front page of last Friday’s paper), a contractor that was supposed to provide services for developmentally delayed 3 and 4-year olds. There are countless criminals to be pursued, but someone who preys on developmentally delayed toddlers and their families is especially repugnant to me.   As the mother of a daughter on the autistic spectrum, I know how it feels to be desperate for the early intervention services considered critical to cognitive development.  My heart goes out to the families who were lured into a lavish building with marble floors, red carpets and promises of state of the art therapy. 

      Desperation can be blinding.  Sarah once had a speech therapist, who double-billed us and another family by taking our daughters out together instead of individually. The speech therapist also bought stockings while she was supposed to be working with our daughter, and she did other personal errands under the guise of “helping the girls develop pragmatic language in the real world.”   Sarah’s speech therapist also acted as a sub-contractor, persuading us to hire a tutor for Max.   When the tutor admitted to me that Max had refused to focus on academic work and wanted to work on athletic skills instead, my blindfold came off.  I fired both “tutor” and “therapist.”  Who would not lament the money wasted on these fraudulent “service providers?”

     Mr. Park of Bilingual SEIT takes this type of fraud to a whole new level.  Bilingual SEIT was not only paid to evaluate kids for special education, but the company also profited from providing services for these kids–a clear conflict of interest.  According to The Times, Mr. Park opened two of his own special-ed preschools in 2011, enabling him to bill 75% more per child in each classroom of 8 to 13 kids than he had previously been receiving for individual hourly therapy.

     To add insult to injury, New York City and New York State paid Mr. Park for expensive renovations to his buildings as well as for the “services” rendered to the children.  Some of these children, whose first language was Chinese, were placed in classes taught in Spanish. Others , who were supposed to receive individual therapy,  got shoe-horned into groups of kids with a hodge-podge of disabilities.  Even more shocking was that some kids had no disabilities, (and were in fact gifted).  These children were being used to produce greater billings, and they cost the government more than $50,000 per year, per child.   Bottom line is Mr. Park made millions, not just on these vulnerable children, but also on real estate transactions involving the sale of the schools and buildings.

     What I would like to do with Mr. Park and his ilk—given that racks and disemboweling are no longer in fashion—is use him to overhaul the system he exploited.  Remember the movie “Catch Me if You Can?”  Based on a true story, Leo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, a brilliant check forger who eluded frustrated government agents for many years.  When he was finally apprehended and found guilty, the FBI offered him a deal:  Work for the government to improve detection of bad checks and counterfeit bills and stay out of jail.  I would like the government to offer a similar deal to Mr. Park.  Have him assist the Board of Education in rewriting and overhauling the existing regulations to crack down on greedy and unscrupulous contractors like himself.   The big problem with my idea is that there are so many politicians misusing funds, taking bribes, calling vacations “business travel” that they may not want this party to end.  Finding a politician who genuinely cares about the robbery of developmentally delayed children and their families—along with all taxpayer robbery—is probably like finding a needle in a haystack.  But find them we must.   As for the double dealers and greedy opportunists, catch them if you can—any way that you can.





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