State hits HARC for $310,000 - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

State hits HARC for $310,000

Posted: Updated:
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Taxpayers take note: the state reclaimed $310,000 that it says the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, or HARC, fraudulently stole from you.

Florida's Chief Financial Officer says former HARC administrators billed the state for services it did not provide in its HomeLink program.

In HomeLink, HARC's clients were supposed to provide services such as yard work or cleaning to homebound senior citizens. HARC then billed Florida's Agency for Disabled Persons for reimbursements.

An 8 On Your Side investigation revealed in January that Florida's Department of Financial Services had evidence of improper billing, and was readying to pop HARC.

"HARC was actually billing for individuals who had already been placed in a senior living facility, they were billing for individuals who did not even exist, false names completely, and regrettably they were billing for those who had already been deceased," Florida CFO Jeff Atwater said.

Atwater called the scheme fraud from top to bottom.

"It was not a mistake, it was clear these were not errors, it was not a misjudgment call, it was repeated efforts by management, administrators within HARC to misrepresent the types of services that were being offered," he said.

Last summer HARC attorney Cynthia Mikos explained to the agency's board of directors that HARC not only billed for dead people, it filled out paperwork stating they were satisfied with the work performed.

"We billed services on deceased people and we said how they loved their yard work," Mikos told the board.

"That's a shocking allegation," HARC Foundation chairman Steven Brannock said in January. "If that happened, and it happened improperly, we would be just as angry about it as the state."

Atwater said it happened, and the fact that HARC took money from other developmentally disabled people is despicable.

The state became aware that something was up with HARC's billing in the HomeLink program when former employee Tiffany Thomas filed a lawsuit against the agency. She claimed that former HARC CFO Frank Pannullo pressured her to create false documents for the HomeLink program using names from a Meals On Wheels program.

Pannullo told 8 On Your Side in February, though he signed the invoices, he knew nothing about billing the state for people who were already dead.

"You've got to understand I was not involved at all in the programmatic part of that program," he said.

Pannullo was fired by former CEO Richard Lilliston.

When the board discovered in late 2011 that Lilliston and Pannullo both collected unauthorized $1,800 a month car allowances, it fired Lilliston.

Lilliston has refused comment on anything related to HARC.

Atwater had plenty to say.

"They were pulling money down from the state that could've gone to others in need and it was not an accident. This was intentional they had all the documentation they knew what they were doing they thought they'd get away with it," Atwater said.

Since HARC had no money and its assets were leveraged beyond their value, Atwater says DFS sat down with the company insuring HARC's board and officers and worked out a settlement.

Last summer Mikos warned HARC's board the state might seek $2 million dollars in restitution, fines and penalties.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER:  @WFLATAMPA

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Citrus Park property prompts code enforcement change

    Citrus Park property prompts code enforcement change

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 3:55 PM EDT2014-08-20 19:55:42 GMT
    Action today by Hillsborough county commissioners following an 8 On Your Side investigation.Commissioners voted unanimously to draw up an ordinance that will bring chronic code offenders before a judge in county court.For months now 8 On Your Side has documented the county's inability to deal with properties that are overgrown and piled with junk and pose possible health risks to neighbors.
    Action today by Hillsborough county commissioners following an 8 On Your Side investigation.Commissioners voted unanimously to draw up an ordinance that will bring chronic code offenders before a judge in county court.For months now 8 On Your Side has documented the county's inability to deal with properties that are overgrown and piled with junk and pose possible health risks to neighbors.
  • Peanut, almond butter recalled for salmonella risk

    Peanut, almond butter recalled for salmonella risk

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 4:16 AM EDT2014-08-20 08:16:32 GMT
    A unit of Hain Celestial Group Inc. is recalling some peanut and almond butter because of possible salmonella contamination.
    A unit of Hain Celestial Group Inc. is recalling some peanut and almond butter because of possible salmonella contamination.
  • Lakeland Electric warns customers about phone payment scam

    Lakeland Electric warns customers about phone payment scam

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 12:59 PM EDT2014-08-19 16:59:20 GMT
    Lakeland Electric customers beware of a current scam that involves an individual who calls and acts as if he is a representative of Lakeland Electric.
    Lakeland Electric customers beware of a current scam that involves an individual who calls and acts as if he is a representative of Lakeland Electric.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Lakeland house labeled 'public nuisance' after dozens of police calls

    Lakeland house labeled 'public nuisance' after dozens of police calls

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 4:00 PM EDT2014-08-20 20:00:35 GMT
    919 North Iowa Ave has been labeled a "public nusiance"919 North Iowa Ave has been labeled a "public nusiance"
    A Lakeland triplex was boarded up Wednesday and officially labeled a "public nuisance."
    A Lakeland triplex was boarded up Wednesday and officially labeled a "public nuisance."
  • Closing arguments to begin in Lakeland police officer murder trial

    Closing arguments to begin in Lakeland police officer murder trial

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 3:58 PM EDT2014-08-20 19:58:06 GMT
    Kyle Williams is accused of killing a police officerKyle Williams is accused of killing a police officer
    Closing arguments are set for Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of killing a Lakeland Police officer.
    Closing arguments are set for Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of killing a Lakeland Police officer.
  • Sarasota school psychologist arrested for molesting teen

    Sarasota school psychologist arrested for molesting teen

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 3:56 PM EDT2014-08-20 19:56:25 GMT
    Harvey DoreyHarvey Dorey
    The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says they've arrested a school psychologist for molesting a teenage girl.
    The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says they've arrested a school psychologist for molesting a teenage girl.
Powered by WorldNow

1336 Augusta West Parkway
Augusta, GA 30909

Telephone: 706.722.6664
Email: talkback6@wjbf.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.