Homicidal crime boss linked to child care
Homicidal crime boss linked to child care
Lock used at least 4 centers for illicit ends
By Raquel Rutledge of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 13, 2009
Drug Ties To Day Care Centers
Cashing in on Kids
Ongoing Journal Sentinel investigation details how parents and child-care providers work in cahoots to easily scam the $350 million Wisconsin Shares program.
Michael Lock's criminal machine spanned drug dealing, robbery, prostitution and mortgage fraud and was backed up with brutal violence.
But the Milwaukee crime boss also had ties to other businesses, including at least four child-care centers. Police say those tax-funded operations were used by Lock to advance his criminal enterprise.
Lock relied on Hickman's Academy of Excellence, a major recipient of Wisconsin Shares funding, to shelter some of his illicit activities, according to police who worked on the case.
Lock leased his cell phones from Hickman's Academy so the phones would not be traced to him, said Thomas Dineen, a veteran Milwaukee police detective. While the phone records were critical to the case against Lock, the fact that Hickman's Academy leased phones to Lock was not central to the investigation.
Police never pursued criminal charges against Hickman's Academy or its owner, Bennie Hickman.
"That would have taken us another year," Dineen said.
Lock was the subject of a five-part Journal Sentinel series in May detailing how his criminal operation grew for years while he eluded law enforcement. Last year, he was convicted of two murders and other crimes. He is serving multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Indeed, Lock isn't Hickman Academy's only tie to drug dealing. Algie Hickman, who works for the company, was charged in March with selling cocaine and marijuana. He's due in court later this month.
Bennie Hickman, the center's owner, said Algie Hickman is her brother-in-law and said he was - and still is - a van driver for her company.
She said she doesn't know Michael Lock and couldn't remember anything about leasing cell phones to him.
"I'm not sure about that," she said.
Her attorney, Brad Hoeschen, said Bennie Hickman's son, Rodney Hickman, was an acquaintance of Michael Lock and leased Lock the phones without his client's knowledge. It's unclear over what period of time the phones were leased, but the arrangement was in place in 2000, police discovered.
Rodney Hickman no longer works at Hickman's Academy, and the company no longer leases phones, Hoeschen said.
Bennie Hickman operates two centers, one near N. 64th St. and W. Capitol Drive, and the other on N. 51st St. They are licensed to care for a total of 237 children. All told, Hickman's Academy has collected more than $12 million from the Wisconsin Shares program since 1999.
The Capitol Drive facility has been cited for more than 100 rule violations since August 2008, including repeat violations for not keeping accurate attendance records.
In October, state regulators revoked Hickman's Academy's license, but the centers remain open during an appeal. Hickman's Academy collected nearly $22,000 on Dec. 8 for the prior two weeks of providing child care. An appeal hearing is scheduled for March.
The state Department of Children and Families is in the midst of a crackdown on providers suspected of fraud and other crimes. It's unclear if the license for Hickman's Academy was revoked as part of that effort.
"Hickman's is an old and good day care facility that appears to be caught up in the zealousness of the department," Hoeschen said.
State regulators said Friday that they were unaware that Hickman's Academy had leased phones to Lock. They did not provide details about the revocation of its license. They did say Hickman's Academy is also under investigation for its collection of Wisconsin Shares subsidies.
Linked to others
Aside from Hickman's Academy of Excellence, Lock was also linked with Nuk Nuk's Childcare and Development Center on W. Vliet St., which was owned by his wife, Shalanda Mason Lock, and Jasmine's Learning House on N. 35th St., owned by Nicole Brown.
Regulators shut down those centers earlier this year when the Journal Sentinel published stories that highlighted problems.
Shalanda Lock faces 10 counts of prostitution, and regulators determined they never should have licensed her in the first place because Milwaukee County had found she had neglected her children. Michael Lock's state probation records indicate that he was involved in his wife's day care operation, but it's unclear to what degree.
Brown and her center were involved in Michael Lock's mortgage fraud case. Brown admitted she falsified employment records so people could qualify for home loans.
Meanwhile, Lock's mother, Thelmer Lock, also runs a child-care center.
Thelmer Lock's center, Pretty's Child Care on W. Villard Ave., has received more than $293,000 from the Wisconsin Shares program since 2006.
According to testimony in one of Michael Lock's criminal trials, Lock kept guns and money at his mother's home, which is attached to her child-care center.
The state pays her roughly $800 every month to care for two of Lock's children.
Reporter John Diedrich contributed to this report.
You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.
-Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)
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