HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Richard Liliston, the former head of the Hillsborough Assocation for Retarded Citizens (HARC),was convicted of conspiring to defraud the Social Security Administration, a jury ruled on Wednesday.
Liliston was found guilty in a scheme to divert $683,599 from his disabled clients. According to prosecutors, the money had been placed into a client endowment fund and when it came to managing these funds, Mr. Liliston and other H.A.R.C. executives ignored government rules and regulations and spent the money as they saw fit.
Five years ago, a Target 8 investigation exposed how these benefits were spent on perks, such as Mr. Liliston’s $1,800 per month car allowance and a hefty pay raise, which was greater than what the agency’s board of directors had approved.
In closing arguments, the prosecutor, Jay Trezevant told jurors the former CEO did nothing wrong by setting up an endowment, but he argued it’s considered conspiracy when the endowment is used to hide money from clients’ account balances.
The money was intended for individual clients’ needs and was supposed to be reported to Social Security. The government claims they received hundreds of false reports from HARC when they were hiding the money.
According to the prosecution, the conspiracy began with hiding the exact amount of money clients had in their accounts, then HARC started taking the clients money.
The government says $75,833 of one client,Vickie Caldwell’s Social Security benefits were transferred into the account Mr. Lilliston opened in 2001.
Another client, Melinda Hirsch lost $44,500.
Patricia Hurlbrink’s son was also a client who lost money. She told News Channel 8 she wants Liliston behind bars.
“I actually would like to see him serve jail time, I don’t care how little it is, I just think the man should be punished,” said Mrs. Hurlbrink.
The money was all dumped into H.A.R.C.’s operating account and spent.
Mr. Lilliston testified before jurors and said he knew nothing about the endowment account of what happened to clients’ money.
He blamed former CFO Frank Pannullo and Marsha Weisse for moving clients’ funds and keeping him out of the loop.
His defense attorney labeled Mr. Pannullo an affirmed liar.
Both Mr. Pannullo and Ms. Weisse signed plea agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s office. They entered guilty pleas to submitting false reports to Social Security. Their sentence hearings are set to follow Lilliston’s trial.
According to Trezevant this case was rather complicated to prove.
“It was a difficult case, it was a complex case. We always appreciate it when the jury takes the time to go through all of that. It was not an easy, easy case to decide,” explained Mr. Trezevant.
But jurors had little trouble arriving at a decision. It took them a little more than two hours to find Mr. Lilliston guilty as charged.
If you have a problem you want investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.
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