By Brad Segall
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — A Philadelphia man today admitted in Montgomery County Court that he illegally enrolled his daughter in a suburban school district and was ordered to pay back the amount that prosecutors say was stolen from the taxpayers.
After several hours of negotiations between attorneys, Hamlet Garcia — who had been charged with a felony theft offense — pleaded guilty to a summary offense in the school code. He admitted that he knowingly provided false information when he enrolled his child in a school in Lower Moreland.
Montgomery County prosecutor Steven Latzer says he is pleased with the outcome of the case.
“Hamlet Garcia has been brought to justice,” Latzer said this afternoon. “He has admitted that he wrongfully enrolled his child in the Lower Moreland School District. That’s all this case was ever about, and it’s all it ever will be about.”
In exchange for the plea, charges against Garcia’s wife, Olesia, were dropped. If convicted, the Garcias could have faced up to seven years behind bars.
The amount to be paid back is nearly $11,000.
While still not believing he did anything wrong, Garcia says, he took the deal knowing that sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
The case had drawn national attention with school choice advocates who have been calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass a law to stop the criminal arrest of parents who are looking for a better education for their kids.
“It’s been a difficult time for me (and) for my family,” Hamlet Garcia said earlier this morning, “but I have a lot of trust in my attorneys and I have a lot of trust in the justice system.”
The Garcias claimed they had separated and Mrs. Garcia went to live with her father in Huntingdon Valley but they failed to notify the school district when they reconciled and she moved back to the city with her daughter.