Deal offered to Phila. pair who sent daughter to Montco school

Posted: November 09, 2012

A Philadelphia couple who faced criminal charges after they enrolled their daughter at an out-of-district school could see their record expunged if they complete a court-approved rehabilitative program and repay tuition to the Lower Moreland School District.

Hamlet and Olesia Garcia were charged with theft of services and conspiracy to commit theft of services. Olesia's father, Grigori Sofitchouk, was charged with false swearing after he signed a notarized document saying his granddaughter was living with him in Lower Moreland.

Prosecutors had alleged that the Garcias sent their young daughter to school in Lower Moreland instead of Philadelphia without paying local school taxes or out-of-district tuition - about $10,753 per year.

In court Thursday, the Garcias and Sofitchouk waived their rights to a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors recommended that the defendants be allowed to enter an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program and repay tuition. If they complete the program successfully, their records will likely be expunged of the charges.

"The D.A.'s Office is not trying to make an example of them," said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney John Walko. There have been 15 similar cases in the district this year, and the Garcias were the only parents to face criminal charges.

Walko says the school district contacted police because the Garcias had insisted that their daughter was eligible to attend school in Lower Moreland.

Michael Cassidy, the Garcias' lawyer, says the couple's daughter was legally eligible to attend school in Lower Moreland. At the time, he said, Hamlet and Olesia Garcia were separated, and Olesia and her daughter were living with Sofitchouk in Huntingdon Valley.

Prosecutors say the Garcias' daughter was not living in Huntingdon Valley. During an investigation by the Lower Moreland Police Department, police conducted surveillance on Sofitchouk's house and concluded that the Garcias' daughter never left the house to go to school. Police said that the Garcias had lived in Philadelphia since 2004 and that Sofitchouk told police that Olesia Garcia and her daughter stayed at his home only "sometimes."

The Garcias and Sofitchouk still must apply for the ARD program, Cassidy said, adding that his clients are more than willing to pay the district the tuition they owe but "have no intention to plead guilty to any crime."

"From the first day I met my clients, they said they would pay the tuition. They said, 'We never had any intent to take anything from anybody,' "he said.


Contact Aubrey Whelan at 215-495-5855 or awhelan@phillynews.com.

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