SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Former Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) counselor Karen C. Lyke (formerly known as Karen C. Gregory) has been charged with forging educational records and creating fake students with non-existent disabilities and illnesses in a years-long scheme to steal over $1.3 million. 

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan explained that by utilizing her position with the GVRA, Lyke allegedly extorted taxpayers through doctored records and created fake students with non-existent disabilities.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office, from approximately May 2016 to November 2020, Lyke and a Family Member allegedly claimed educational expenses for approximately 13 fake students seeking tuition assistance from the GVRA.

Lyke and the Family Member claimed that the fake students suffered from disabilities or illnesses like AIDS, cancer, psychosocial impairments, or muscular dystrophy.

They also provided the GVRA with images of fake driver’s licenses and altered authentic college transcripts, financial aid reports, and proofs of registration from actual GVRA clients to support claims that the fake students attended schools like the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, or the University of Georgia.

Based on false documentation, Lyke caused more than 230 checks to be mailed to approximately 13 friends and relatives for claimed educational expenses. 

After receiving the checks, Lyke and the Family Member allegedly deposited them into their own bank accounts or gave them to friends and relatives to be deposited. The friends and relatives allegedly funneled most of the GVRA funds back to Lyke and the Family Member after depositing them.

Additionally, from approximately August 2016 to February 2019, Lyke stole multiple computers in her capacity as a GVRA counselor.

Lyke’s alleged enterprise was uncovered by the Georgia Office of Inspector General and FBI.

“Through her alleged scheme, Karen Lyke targeted money meant for those with disabilities trying to improve their lives,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “I’m proud of the work of the FBI and our law enforcement partners for their work in this case. We will continue to work together to stop those who steal taxpayer funds.”

“Not only is theft of government money a serious crime that will be vigorously investigated, but all too often it also deprives our most vulnerable citizens of vital assistance,” said Georgia State Inspector General Scott McAfee. “OIG will continue to uphold the integrity of state programs and ensure taxpayer dollars are used for their intended purpose.”

The United States Attorney’s Office said that Lyke has stated her intent to plead guilty to the charge.

GVRA Executive Director Chris Wells said their agency is committed to protecting the interests of Georgia’s taxpayers and their constituents and therefore, notified the Georgia Office of Inspector General as soon as they suspected fraud in the matter.

According to their website, the GVRA’s goal is to assist those with disabilities to live and work independently and with dignity.