Guardianship Fraud Bill Approved by Florida Legislature
Legislation modeled after successful guardianship fraud program in Palm Beach County
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (April 29, 2014) – Important legislation that will allow Florida’s Clerks to conduct enhanced audits of court-appointed guardianships is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.
The Florida Senate on Monday unanimously approved House Bill 635, which is modeled after successful guardianship audit programs in Palm Beach and Pinellas counties and gives Florida’s Clerks and their auditors the authority to identify or investigate potential fraud or exploitation in guardianship cases. The bill was unanimously approved by the Florida House of Representatives on March 27.
“We know these guardianship fraud programs are effective, because we’ve seen real results in Palm Beach County,” Clerk Sharon Bock said. “While most guardians do have the wards’ best interests at heart, our guardianship audits are an added layer of protection for Palm Beach County’s residents. When Gov. Scott signs this bill, all Clerks will have the tools to protect citizens in their counties.”
Clerk Bock’s Guardianship Fraud program has become a model for Florida. Its investigations have led to two arrests and uncovered more than $3 million in questionable expenses and misreported assets. She launched the Guardianship Fraud Hotline in September 2011, to give people a way to anonymously report suspicious activity in guardianship cases.
The hotline was the first of its kind in Palm Beach County, and among the first in Florida, but required an administrative order from then-Chief Judge Peter Blanc because Florida statutes didn’t provide Clerks with the authority to create enhanced guardianship fraud programs.
“Allowing Florida’s Clerks to enhance their guardianship fraud programs is a significant step toward protecting our state’s most vulnerable citizens – those people, both young and old, who are appointed guardians to oversee their assets,” Clerk Bock said. “I applaud our legislative leaders for their foresight in approving this much-needed legislation.”
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.
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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