Target 8 investigation: H.A.R.C. executive avoids federal prison in fraud scheme

Marsha Weisse, former HARC employee

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Marsha Weisse was visibly shaking as she walked into the Federal Courthouse in Tampa Friday morning for sentencing.

“I’m glad it’s over, it’s been a nightmare,” said Ms. Weisse, the former Chief Financial Officer of the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens (H.A.R.C.)

Marsha Weisse pleaded guilty to providing false statements to the Social Security Administration. She told SSA that clients’ benefits were spent on clients, when the money was spent elsewhere.

Judge Richard Lazzara imposed a sentence of five years probation and ordered she pay $4,100 dollars in restitution.

According to the government, Ms. Weisse came in at the end of a scheme that bilked H.A.R.C. clients for more than $600,000 dollars in social security benefits.

She got mentally incapacitated clients to sign over their money then back dated agreements they signed.

In 2010, Target 8 revealed that while special needs clients like Vicki Caldwell, Melinda Hirsch and Robert Franklin went without services they needed, CEO Richard Lilliston and CFO Frank Pannullo enjoyed $1,800 dollar a month in car allowances.

“To steal from those people, I think is despicable and I just regret that I had a part in it,” explained Ms. Weisse.

Following our reports, The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Comptroller’s Office launched a joint investigation.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant, Ms. Weisse was critical in the government’s pursuit of the fraud’s architects, Pannullo and Lilliston.

“She helped us go through just volumes of material. Emails, going over years and step by step and how those pieced together, what actually occurred and who was actually responsible so that we could pursue those individuals through indictment and at trial,” explained Mr. Trezevant.

The abundance of detailed information evidence provided by Ms. Weisse concerning Mr. Pannullo was likely a major factor in his decision to plead guilty.

Richard Lilliston refused to cooperate with the government. He was indicted and a jury, in April, convicted him of scheming to defraud the government.

Both await sentencing.

The U.S. Attorney’s office recommended a lighter sentence because Ms. Weisse helped investigators find evidence that Mr. Pannullo and Mr. Lilliston could not deny.

Judge Lazzara took into consideration that Ms. Weisse is a certified public accountant and her license has been suspended. Also that she lost a lot of client business and her ability to make a living is greatly impaired.

What sort of a sentence does she think Judge James Whittemore should impose on Lilliston at sentencing?

“I’m going to leave that to him. I’m not a judge or a jury, I’ll leave that to him and his God,” said Ms. Weisse.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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