Target 8: HARC client couldn’t sign name, signed contract handing HARC his money

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Two former Chief Financial Officers for the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens or H.A.R.C. told federal jurors that former CEO Richard Lilliston was part of a big lie.

Mr. Lilliston is charged with conspiracy to defraud Social Security and trying to hide it. His trial in U.S. District Court has moved into its third day.

Former CFO Marsha Weisse testified that under Mr. Lilliston’s direction, she had H.A.R.C. clients sign agreements as part of a pooled trust, called the “Building Everyday Lives Pooled Trust.”

Another former CFO, Frank Pannullo denied this trust existed.  In his testimony, he claimed that in as early as 2001, H.A.R.C. began moving social security benefits out of clients’ personal banking accounts and started borrowing the money in 2002.  This money was then transferred into H.A.R.C.’s operating fund.

Pannullo explained there was no paperwork for these loans, no terms and no payback and told jurors this was done under Mr. Lilliston’s direction.

The agreements that Ms. Weisse had clients sign are six-page documents where clients agree to allow H.A.R.C. to move their money.

Robert Franklin is a client that signed the agreement. His brother Ralph testified today.

“There’s no way he (Robert) would have understood that.  As a matter of fact if they had presented it to us we would have taken it to legal counsel, ” Mr. Franklin stated.

Robert Franklin couldn’t even write his name, let alone understand that H.A.R.C. moved his money.

When asked why he wanted Ms. Weisse to sign up clients who did not have the capacity to understand the agreements, Mr. Lilliston walked silently away.

Mr. Pannullo and Ms. Weisse have both entered guilty pleas to submitting false records to the Social Security Administration confirming that benefits were being spent on clients, when in fact they weren’t.

Defense attorney Mark Rodriguez pointed out that neither Mr. Pannullo nor Ms. Weisse had any problems telling untruths before, their credibility should be questioned.

Both are awaiting sentencing for their federal crimes.  Mr. Rodriguez noted their performances and whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office felt their testimony was helpful will go a long way toward determining their sentences.

While H.A.R.C. struggled financially, Mr. Panullo testified that in 2010, he and Mr. Lilliston doctored paperwork giving Mr. Lilliston a bigger salary increase than H.A.R.C.’s board approved.

Five years ago, Target 8 revealed Mr. Lilliston and Mr. Pannullo gave themselves perks, including an $1,800 per month car allowances for each of them.  The money came from H.A.R.C.’s operating account, which was partially funded by clients’ social security benefits.

H.A.R.C. loaned itself more than $7-thousand dollars from Robert Franklin.

Five years ago, Ralph learned about the agreement Robert had signed through a News Channel 8 investigation and was left stunned and angry.

“I’m still angry, I’m glad, I’m very happy that the federal government is prosecuting the case.  Obviously we’re nearing some kind of outcome,” said Mr Franklin.

Mr. Lilliston is charged with conspiracy to defraud Social Security and filling out phony paperwork to hide it.

“Personally I’d like to see him in jail,” Mr. Franklin added.  “These children had a need, these people were entrusted to take care of them and they simply didn’t do it.”

If you know of something that needs to be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808,  or contact Steve Andrews at


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