TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – For the second time in 3 months, a former employee of HARC former known as the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens has entered a guilty plea to covering up the theft of clients’ money and promised to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Court documents state 56 year old Marsha Weisse, a former Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer at HARC, knew clients’ social security benefits were being diverted by HARC executives, and knowingly submitted a report assuring the government the money was used properly.
The money was to be used by clients for such things as clothing, education, medical and dental expenses, recreation or other personal items.
“I was doing what I was told to do and I was told that lawyers had approved it, other than that I have no comment,” Weisse told 8 On Your Side as she entered the federal court. Weisse pleaded guilty to submitting a fraudulent document to the Social Security Administration, waived her right to indictment and entered into a plea agreement with the government.
An 8 On Your Side investigation in 2013 revealed the benefits of several clients’ were diverted by HARC executives for other purposes and personal perks. Our investigation found some of that money was used for $1,800 dollar a month car allowances for HARC’s former CEO Richard Lilliston and CFO Frank Panullo. According to the feds, Weisse became aware clients’ benefits were wrongfully diverted and raised the issue with Lilliston. He instructed her to continue.
“She’s guilty, we’ve admitted that we’re cooperating with the government and we look forward to the government moving forward and getting the people that really benefited from this scam,” Weisse attorney Stephen Crawford said.
Weisse knowingly signed a fraudulent report to Social Security that stated $5000 of a client’s money was used for his needs when she knew much of it was diverted. Before that, she entered a guilty plea before federal judge Richard Lazzara. Judge Lazzara told Weisse she was facing up to 5 years in prison and a $250 thousand dollar fine.
He gave her a chance to back out of her plea, she didn’t. Like former HARC employee Sandra Shepherd who the feds charged in September, with the same crime, Weisse is also cooperating with the government’s ongoing investigation