HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A third former HARC big wig pleaded guilty and admitted to cheating adults with Alzheimer’s and Down Syndrome.
Former CFO Frank Pannullo faces a possible five-year prison term and $250,000 fine for his part in a conspiracy that cheated HARC clients out of their social security money. He’s also accused of lying about it to the government.
HARC was formerly known as the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens when it was established in the 1950s.
Pannullo’s only response to questions as he walked into the federal courthouse Monday was, “Speak to my attorney.”
He is the third HARC executive to plead guilty to this conspiracy, first exposed by 8 On Your Side three years ago. Investigators with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and Social Security Administration determined the scheme bilked mentally impaired clients out of more than $617,000.
That money was to be used for clients’ medical, dental, clothing and recreational expenses.
Client finance manager Sandra Shepherd and former comptroller Marsha Weisse already pleaded guilty to providing false statements to the Social Security Administration. They assured the agency clients’ money had been spent appropriately.
The money was moved from one account to another at HARC. It enabled Pannullo and former CEO Richard Lilliston to enjoy $1,800-a-month car allowances.
Pannullo, Shepherd and Weisse siphoned money from clients including Robert Franklin, getting them to sign a complex contract. Robert’s brother Ralph was stunned when he learned of this rip-off by catching 8 On Your Side’s report on television.
“We had no knowledge that this agreement existed,” Ralph Franklin said.
In federal court, Pannullo admitted to it all. He agreed to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation.
Pannullo waived his right to a trial and entered a guilty plea. He will be sentenced in 70 to 90 days.
His cohort Sandra Shepherd got five years probation in March when she was sentenced and ordered to pay $33,700 dollars in restitution at $100 dollars a month.
According to Pannullo, former CEO Richard Lilliston was well aware of the monies being removed from clients accounts.
If you have a problem you think needs to be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side helpline at 1-800-338-0808.