A Somerton couple accused of felony charges for enrolling their daughter in a suburban public school last year likely won’t end up in prison, but will still have to pay more than $10,000 in back tuition.
Hamlet and Olesia Garcia waived their preliminary hearing on Thursday in a Willow Grove courtroom after the Montgomery County district attorney’s office agreed to recommend a non-trial accelerated rehabilitative disposition in the case.
As part of the county’s ARD program, the Garcias will agree to pay $10,752.81 in restitution to the Lower Moreland School District. They may also be ordered to serve probation and perform community service, while paying fines and court fees, said Assistant District Attorney John Walko.
Specific terms of the ARD programs are pending further review by the DA’s office and court approval.
Also on Thursday, Olesia Garcia’s father, Huntingdon Valley resident Gregori Sofitchouk, waived his preliminary hearing on a misdemeanor count of false swearing as the district attorney agreed to recommend his case for ARD.
In August, Montgomery County authorities arrested the Garcias on theft of services and conspiracy charges, accusing them of falsifying their daughter’s address on school enrollment papers. The Garcias live in Philadelphia, but allegedly enrolled their 5-year-old at Pine Road Elementary School in Lower Moreland Township, claiming that the girl and her mother lived with Sofitchouk.
The girl attended kindergarten at Pine Road throughout the 2011-12 school year.
Olesia Garcia’s stepmother, Victoria Karlova, blew the whistle on the alleged fraud last spring after she received a Valentine’s Day card in the mail that the youngster had made for her parents in class, authorities said.
School officials investigated the false address claim, placed the Garcias under surveillance and confronted them with the fraud allegation before referring the case to Lower Moreland police, according to court documents.
Police questioned Sofitchouk, who allegedly perpetuated the ruse by stating that Olesia Garcia and her daughter were living with him, rather than in their Northeast Philadelphia home.
On Thursday, Sofitchouk communicated with the court via a Russian interpreter. He owns a flower shop in Holland, Bucks County, and has no prior criminal record and is free on his own recognizance.
Olesia Garcia, a native of Ukraine, owns an independent insurance agency where her husband, a native of Cuba, works. Both parents are American citizens with no prior criminal records. They are each free on $10,000 unsecured bail.
All three defendants are scheduled for Common Pleas Court arraignments on Dec. 19 in Norristown.
The couple’s daughter now attends a private school in Bucks County. ••
Reach reporter William Kenny at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org