By Sophie Gorman Oriani and Kit Slack

On Aug. 29, seven months after former Hyattsville mayor Kevin “Scooter” Ward’s sudden death by self-inflicted gunshot wound, a federal lawsuit was filed, alleging that Ward stole over $2 million from KIPP DC

KIPP DC is a network of public charter schools in the District that serves 6,800 students at 18 schools.

According to the lawsuit, Ward served as senior director of technology for KIPP DC until at least July 2021. The theft is alleged to have occurred between April 2020 and October 2021.

Ward served as a Hyattsville councilmember starting in 2015, and became mayor at the end of 2020, when former mayor Candace Hollingsworth stepped down.

Ward is alleged to have placed fraudulent orders for technology services and devices, paying Tenret Tech, a company he owned, for thousands of items such as laptops and tablets, which never arrived. The total value of all the orders placed is $2,229,418.97. 

The lawsuit notes that some of Ward’s assets were eligible for seizure by the federal government, which, by law, can claim property gained via wire fraud and via theft from programs receiving federal funding. The complaint was submitted by James Curt Bohling, the acting chief for the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.

The lawsuit seeks the forfeiture of two properties in West Virginia, as well as 10 vehicles (including a camper and a motorcycle), and arts and sports memorabilia alleged to have been purchased with funds that KIPP DC paid to Ward’s companies. The vehicles and memorabilia have already been seized.

The City of Hyattsville issued a statement asserting that the city is not implicated in any way by the allegations, adding that the city has a “robust, multi-layered approval process” for city expenditures.

In a Sept. 9 email, city officials said Hyattsville Treasurer Ron Brooks and City Administrator Tracy Douglas review and approve vendors and purchases, obtaining legal review prior to entering into contracts. The city follows a formal procurement policy that promotes a competitive process and has standards for employee conduct. 

Jim Chandler, the city’s director of community and economic development, reviews the city’s technology purchases; computers bought with federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 have been delivered.

Any expenditure over $10,000 is also approved by the city council in a public forum.

According to Brooks, “The city plans to issue a request for proposal to conduct a compliance audit. That audit will be focused on our vendors, contract compliance and identifying risk liability.” 

Brooks said he had previously recommended such an audit during budget discussions, and he did not make his recommendation in response to accusations against Ward. 

On a local listserv, residents renewed expressions of sorrow at losing Ward and sympathy for his family.

One resident wrote, “Two things can be true at the same time: Kevin could have been the kind and caring person everyone remembers. He could also have made some truly terrible mistakes. The one does not cancel out or negate the other, in either direction. I truly hope that anyone reading this knows that whatever mistakes or decisions you have made, there are people who will meet you with open minds, forgiveness, and help. You are not alone.”

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.