Former Philly day-care owner pleads to $1.4M fraud; awaits trial in 7-year-old boy's drowning

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PHILADELPHIA — A former day-care owner awaiting trial in a boy's drowning death has admitted that she illegally took $1.4 million in public child-care subsidies.

Tianna Edwards ran the center in another woman's name because her criminal background disqualified her as a provider, prosecutors said.

Edwards, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to wire fraud for taking public funds to run two Philadelphia centers from 2008 to 2012. She spent some of the money on lifestyle expenses and gambling, prosecutors said in court papers.

One of the two centers had been closed over alleged violations in 2012 when a boy from the second center drowned during a group outing. Isear Jeffcoat, 7, was found in a murky pool at the home of Edwards' mother, authorities said.

Edwards is expected to go to trial this fall on involuntary manslaughter charges in the boy's death.

"It's a tragedy what happened to that child, obviously, but she was not there," defense lawyer Michael Giampietro said Thursday.

Edwards had left the group in the care of her employees, he said.

Although Edwards named another woman's name on Department of Public Welfare paperwork, and forged her signature on checks and paperwork, she called the centers "Tianna's Terrific Tots." Her lengthy criminal records includes felony retail theft and a gun charge.

She faces up to 20 years in prison on each of five federal wire counts, along with $1.4 million in restitution. She remains in custody on the manslaughter charge.

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