A married couple who owned four daycare providers in Queens swindled the Department of Education out of more than $35,000 over the last two school years by billing for students who never attended the programs, a city investigation has found.

The couple, Saied and Nareesa Mohammed, allegedly took advantage of 12 students whose parents originally signed them up to receive services from a city-funded Universal Pre-K program that operated out of the “Nareesa’s Day Care” and “Beanstalk” centers.

The parents quickly withdrew from the programs, but the Mohammeds allegedly continued to keep their children’s names on the books at the school by submitting false attendance forms and forging parent signatures at the end of the year. The fraud involved at least 12 students and the couple received about $3,500 per pupil from the education department, according to a report released today by the Office of the Special Investigator.

The fraud spanned from 2009 to June 2011, when a manager in the Early Childhood Development office first lodged a complaint with the Special Commissioner’s office. It began on a smaller scale in 2009, with just two students, but it expanded the next year and eventually raised a red flag.

“These types of schemes tend to expand if it looks like you’re being successful,” said Special Investigations Commissioner Richard Condon. “I guess it’s called greed.”

Condon’s office released a report on a fraud case last month that included similar traits. Although that case was on a much larger scale and include more brazen tactics, both instances involved outside vendors who charged the city for services that weren’t being provided by forging signatures and falsifying documents.

“The Department of Education reported the suspected fraud in June 2011 and immediately stopped making payments,” a department spokeswoman said in a statement. “We did not register students with them last September, and are actively working to recoup the money owed to the Department.”

Condon’s office referred its findings to the Queens County District Attorney for the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Sci Report for 9-18-12 (1)