"Mr. and Mrs. Garcia absolutely believe their daughter was legally eligible to attend that school, and they had no intention of deceiving anyone," Cassidy said. "Once all the information comes out, it will become clear to everybody." The charges are based on a misunderstanding by authorities, he said.
According to the school district, the Garcias' child was listed as living at the home of Olesia Garcia's father in Lower Moreland.
It is not uncommon for suburban school districts, especially those bordering Philadelphia, to go to great lengths to prevent parents in other districts from sending their children to those schools.
The usual remedy is to remove the child from the district and seek repayment for the educational services. It is rare for a family to be criminally charged.
In 2003, charges were filed against three Philadelphia residents who had allegedly enrolled children illegally in the Colonial School District, also in Montgomery County.
In 2011, the Upper Darby School District uncovered 83 instances in which it believed students lived in Philadelphia, not the district. Upper Darby officials are seeking restitution in District Court for about $170,000 from those students' parents.
In a news release Thursday, Ferman said that in March, the Lower Moreland district received information that a child enrolled in a district elementary school lived in Philadelphia, not in the district.
Ferman said school records indicated an address for the child on Brookdale Avenue in Huntingdon Valley. But surveillance showed that the student never left that address in the morning to go to school. The vehicle that dropped the student off at school, driven by the child's father, was similar to one seen that morning at a home on Philmont Terrace in Philadelphia, officials said.
The statement said that, at an April 16 meeting with the school district, Olesia Garcia's father provided a signed and notarized document marked "Application for Multiple Occupancy Registration" saying Olesia Garcia and her child resided with him on Brookdale Avenue.
An investigation by the Lower Moreland police, Ferman said, concluded that the Garcias had been living in a Philadelphia home since 2004 and that neither they nor their child ever lived in Lower Moreland.
In her statement, Ferman said: "These defendants essentially stole from every hard-working taxpayer who resides within the Lower Moreland School District by lying about the true location of their home. School taxes are a difficult burden that most residents pay without complaint, but the Garcias instead chose to steal to further their child's education."
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