CLERK’S GUARDIANSHIP AUDITS UNCOVER MORE THAN $1 MILLION IN QUESTIONABLE EXPENSES
Program marks one-year anniversary in Palm Beach County
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (October 31, 2012) – Auditors with the Clerk & Comptroller’s office uncovered more than $1 million in questionable expenses by guardians and conducted 84 investigations into alleged fraud in the year since Clerk Sharon Bock launched the Guardianship Fraud Hotline for Palm Beach County.
Local law enforcement also is expected to arrest three suspects based on cases initiated by the Clerk & Comptroller’s auditors.
“In just one year, we’ve made tremendous strides in protecting Palm Beach County’s most vulnerable citizens,” Clerk Bock said. “I know that, as word continues to spread about our Guardianship Fraud Hotline, we’ll be able to find even more potential fraud, and make perpetrators think twice before taking advantage of our most vulnerable citizens.”
The program’s success has drawn national interest. Clerk Bock recently presented at the annual conference for the National Guardianship Association, and was invited by the Tennessee Bar Association to speak about the Guardianship Fraud Hotline and audits as Tennessee considers possible changes to its conservatorship law.
Clerk Bock created the Guardianship Fraud Hotline in anticipation of an increase in guardianship cases in Palm Beach County, as well as the need to investigate claims of fraud, waste and financial mismanagement by court-appointed guardians for elderly, minor children or incapacitated individuals. The hotline was the first of its kind in Palm Beach County, and among the first in Florida.
Anyone who suspects a guardian, family member, attorney or caregiver of improper financial activities such as stealing money from a ward’s account, selling off a ward’s property or making suspicious loans or money transfers is urged to call (561) 355-FRAUD (355-3728). Reports also can be made by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or online through the Clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page, at www.mypalmbeachclerk.com/fraud.
Those reporting suspicious activities are not required to provide personal information and can remain anonymous. The Clerk’s Division of Inspector General will investigate all claims of guardianship fraud, make recommendations and notify the court if any inappropriate activity is found. The office also will refer cases to law enforcement for additional actions if necessary.
The Clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page includes information about the different types of fraud, how to file a report of suspected abuse, links to frequently asked questions about guardianship fraud and to other resources for reporting physical abuse or neglect of children and the elderly.
For more information about the Clerk’s office, please visit www.mypalmbeachclerk.com or call (561) 355-2996.
The Florida Constitution established the independent office of the Clerk & Comptroller as a public trustee, responsible for safeguarding public records and public funds. Clerk Sharon Bock is directly elected by and accountable to Palm Beach County residents. In addition to the roles of Clerk of the Circuit Court, County Recorder and Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, the Clerk & Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Auditor for Palm Beach County.
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