More DCF follies
A state food-stamps supervisor in Plantation has been arrested on charges she diverted about $1.5 million in state welfare dollars -- some of which she spent on a Lexus sport utility vehicle, a Lexus sedan and gambling at local casinos, police say.How does one steal a million and a half worth of money through the use of two food stamp debit cards? Someone at the agency wasn't paying attention, Ms. Jones supervisor for one. He or she should be fired.
Violet Jones, 41, of Miramar, was charged by agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Thursday with first-degree grand theft of more than $100,000, participating in an organized scheme to defraud, identity theft, official misconduct, unlawful compensation and money laundering.
Jones was a 22-year employee of the Department of Children & Families, working most recently as a supervisor at ACCESS Florida, the DCF program that administers food stamps and other welfare benefits, DCF spokesman Al Zimmerman said. Her job was to supervise caseworkers who determined the eligibility of welfare applicants.
Jones, who earned $37,560, was fired by DCF Friday, Zimmerman said.
''We are shocked and disappointed by these allegations,'' said DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth in a prepared statement.
''We expect our employees to embody the highest standards of ethics and integrity, but sadly, it appears Ms. Jones chose to take advantage of this department and the vulnerable families'' the agency serves.
''Her alleged actions are inexcusable,'' Butterworth added.
FDLE agents say Jones stole the identity of a South Florida man who was receiving state welfare benefits, diverted his electronic benefits card to her Miramar home, then stole money from his account.
The FDLE says the man, whose identity has not been disclosed, ``does not appear to have any connection to the theft scheme.''
On Friday FDLE agents arrested Shanika Shorter, 25, of Fort Lauderdale, who was charged with first-degree grand theft of more than $100,000, participating in an organized scheme to defraud, money laundering and welfare fraud. FDLE investigators think Shorter used another benefits card to withdraw state money, and kicked some of the funds back to Jones.
A prepared statement by the FDLE says the two women -- and a third, Tanisha Shorter, who is Shanika Shorter's sister -- looted welfare accounts from January 2005 until this month, netting about $1.5 million in all. Tanisha Shorter, 22, also of Fort Lauderdale, is accused of using her sister's fraudulent debit card to withdraw cash.
The FDLE says some of the money obtained by Tanisha Shorter was given to Jones.
''Instead of using the money on the people for whom it was desperately needed, they used it as a personal bank account,'' said Paige Patterson-Hughes, an FDLE spokeswoman in South Florida.
Jones was able to steal so much money because, as a welfare supervisor, she had ''inside'' knowledge of how to manipulate the system, Patterson-Hughes said.
The three women sometimes made withdrawals from the two cards as often as several times a week, and then Jones was able to reset the cards so that more money was available for the next withdrawal, the FDLE said.
The cards, Patterson-Hughes said, were ``constantly revolving with money. Money was taken out, and money was put back in.''
Zimmerman declined to discuss any details of the investigation, which he said is not finished.
That an agency can fail so badly like in the story above shouldn't be surprising. DCF screws both children and their families on a regular basis. Like when they came to investigate the mother of my God son for child abuse. The allegations were uncalled for, and made by a busy body at a Lantana area school. While proved unfounded, the charges still caused anguish for my friends.
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