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Crime & Courts

Federal charges don’t deter Crystal Lake nonprofit

CRYSTAL LAKE – Although its director was among five people indicted last month on federal charges tied to its operation, a local nonprofit organization serving veterans plans to have one of its biannual events Tuesday.

National Association of Systems Administrators Education’s handling of grants related to Stand Down was part of the basis for the charges, including allegations that employees fraudulently kept excess federal grant funds.

Stand Down provides veterans with food, clothing, consultation and networking opportunities. The free event will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at NASA Education’s corporate office, 3305 S. Route 31, Crystal Lake.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John McKenzie said the defendants are out of police custody on supervised release, which prohibits them from committing any criminal acts. He said to his knowledge, they are not prohibited from doing work for NASA Education.

Tuesday will be the 13th Stand Down. The past three were held at Harvest Bible Chapel in Crystal Lake, which elected not to host it this year, NASA Education Executive Director John C. Blanchard said in a news release.

“Not doing the Stand Down will never be an option,” said Blanchard, who was one of the people indicted. “We have had incredible, measurable and verifiable results which shouldn’t change because of the opinions, venue or economic climate.”

If he were behind enemy lines and had to fulfill a task, he would still do it regardless of the obstacles, Blanchard said.

“I certainly hope to see all of the same service providers that have supported the veterans over the past 12 Stand Downs ... because after all, the Stand Down is about supporting and helping the veterans,” he said.

Other charges in the indictment focus on NASA Education’s securing of government contracts, and the company’s relationship with Liberating Solutions, a Crystal Lake business that has performed contract work for federal and local governments.

According to its website, Liberating Solutions works with NASA Education’s “Fresh Start Program,” which trains and places homeless or disabled veterans with companies.

The indictment alleges NASA Education and Liberating Solutions falsely represented Liberating Solutions as a “service-disabled veteran-owned business.”

Under federal law, a business gets preferential consideration for certain government contracts when the company is majority-owned and operated by a veteran who was injured or disabled while on active duty.

The indictment also charges that Blanchard and the four other defendants failed to pay legally required wages to veterans for work under federal and local contracts.

Others charged are Blanchard’s wife, Joanne Blanchard, who managed NASA Education’s finances; Program Director Amy B. Johnson; Blanchard’s brother, James Blanchard, who was project manager for Liberating Solutions; and Eric R. Behler, who is listed as a contract officer for Liberating Solutions.

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