TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A plot to steal thousands from disabled clients, exposed by 8 On Your Side, lead to a federal indictment and arrest. The former chief executive officer of the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, or HARC, entered a not guilty plea Thursday in federal court.
Agents with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the Florida Department of Financial Services took note of our 8 On Your Side investigation and started one of their own. That culminated in the arrest of Richard Lilliston.
The usually media savvy Lilliston was at a loss for words when questioned outside the federal courthouse. He is charged with conspiracy to defraud the Social Security Administration.
According to investigators, Lilliston and three other HARC executives engineered a plan that took Social Security benefits from clients with Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome and other mental disabilities. They convinced clients to sign complicated contracts allowing HARC to move the clients’ benefits into different bank accounts.
One of those clients is Vicki Caldwell.
The money was moved into HARC’s general fund from which Lilliston and former CFO Frank Pannullo each allegedly received $1,800 per month for car allowances, while Caldwell went without dental care.
“I have no comment sir,” Lilliston said when asked if he took money from HARC clients.
“I have no comment,” he replied when asked who came up with the scheme.
“I told you I have no comment. Will you leave me alone?” Lilliston asked.
Pannullo, Sandra Shepherd and Marsha Weisse, all former HARC employees, have already pleaded guilty to lying to the Social Security Administration about how clients’ money was spent. At one point Shepherd asked Pannullo about the false reports. Pannullo allegedly said Lilliston would look good in orange.
Appearing in federal court in a “Strummin My Six String” T-shirt, cargo shorts, sandals and ankle shackles, Lilliston entered a not guilty plea.
Claiming he did not have the money, Lilliston asked for a court-appointed attorney. He was freed on $50,000 bond.