Robert Holden
© Helayne Seidman
City Councilman Robert Holden met with officials in the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York after his call for a federal probe.
The feds have started looking into allegations of widespread academic fraud in New York City schools, a Queens lawmaker says.

City Councilman Robert Holden met this month with officials in the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York after his call for a federal probe of "deep-rooted fraud" in the city Department of Education.

"I'm encouraged by my meeting with the US Attorney. His team is taking this seriously," Holden told The Post.

FBI agents have already contacted several whistle-blowing teachers whose names he provided, Holden added.

A spokesman for US Attorney Richard Donoghue declined comment.

Holden sent a letter in November to Donoghue in Brooklyn and US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan, saying "an apparent pattern of conspiracy to cover up" grade-fixing, cheating and other wrongdoing might warrant an investigation under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which covers criminal enterprises.

In Atlanta, eight educators were convicted under a RICO statute of manipulating student test scores and sentenced to prison in 2015.

Holden turned over records compiled by former and current faculty members at Maspeth High School in Queens, where teachers say administrators encouraged cheating on exams, enforced a "no-fail policy," and retaliated against staffers who didn't play ball.

Meanwhile, Holden and The Post received additional whistle blower-letters from anonymous "investigative staff" with the Special Commissioner of
Anastasia Coleman

Special Commissioner of Investigation Anastasia Coleman
Investigation for city schools.

A similar letter sent last summer said SCI was sitting on cases alleging waste or misconduct by Mayor de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chancellor Richard Carranza and other "high-level executives," to protect them. Special Commissioner Anastasia Coleman denied the accusation.

The new letter blasts Coleman for a "numbers game" — boosting stats with minor cases rather than focusing on more serious misconduct and systemic corruption, in an effort to make herself look good.

For instance, the letter says, SCI in 2019 launched a probe of a DOE employee "seen urinating in public a few blocks from a school."

The case was assigned to "Team 1," an elite unit that is supposed to probe sexual contact between staff and students.

The team was also burdened with cases in which administrators "merely forgot to check a box" in submitting a complaint.

"While SCI is doing more work, the quality of the cases being pursued is zero-to-none, and cases that are systematic in nature or that do show major fraud can't be worked on because of a lack of resources or time," the letter says.

It also complains that SCI lawyers "have taken up to 300 days or more" to review and close cases — leaving DOE employees in limbo even if accusations are unsubstantiated.

What's more, SCI has started closing cases "in-house" rather than sending reports to the DOE, the Conflicts of Interest Board or other agencies, to cover up the delays — and avoid making them subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law.

Councilmen Mark Treyger, education committee chairman, and Ritchie Torres, investigations and oversight chairman, have said they plan to hold a hearing on SCI's performance and effectiveness next month.

"It's increasingly apparent that we need an investigation to investigate the investigators," Holden said.

Coleman did not respond to the allegations. "SCI will not comment on pending matters or internal deliberations and office management," the agency said in a statement.