TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal judge threw the book at the former head of the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, otherwise known as HARC.
Richard Lilliston is going to federal prison for five years.
Following his conviction for conspiring to defraud the government, the former charismatic leader of HARC sat in a courtroom begging for leniency.
Judge James Whittemore acknowledged the good that Mr. Lilliston accomplished while at HARC. Before imposing a five-year sentence, he told Mr. Lilliston it is not the amount that he stole, it is who he stole it from.
In court, Mr. Lilliston took full responsibility for a scheme that diverted social security benefits for clients like Vicki Caldwell into HARC’s operating account — a complete reversal from the stance he took during his April jury trial.
Before sentencing, families of several clients let loose on Mr. Lilliston in court.
“I think it’s the lowest of the low, I mean you know he stole from the most vulnerable people in society, those are the people you have to protect,” said Ralph Franklin.
Mr. Franklin’s brother Robert was a client at HARC.
Mr. Lilliston asked for leniency, citing his age, 70 years old.
Roland McPike is 71. His brother was also a HARC client.
“You know between right and wrong, and these kids don’t, and he took total advantage of it,” said Mr. McPike.
A grand jury indicted Richard Lilliston following a series of Target 8 reports which revealed that clients paid for Mr. Lillistion’s $1,800 dollar a month car allowance, cellphones for his family, even his car insurance.
The money was supposed to go to clients.
Mr. Lilliston, former CFOs Frank Pannullo and Marsha Weisse and former HARC employee Sandra Shepherd were all charged in a conspiracy in which they convinced mentally incompetent clients to sign “joinder” agreements. The pacts essentially signed clients’ social security benefits over to HARC. The agreements were then backdated.
At trial, Mr. Lilliston admitted signing the agreements, but said he didn’t know what he was signing. Shepherd, Weisse and Pannullo entered guilty pleas for filing false reports with the Social Security Administration, stating the benefits were used for the clients when they were not.
Pannullo was sentenced to two years in federal prison for his role in the scheme. Weisse and Shepherd were ordered to pay restitution and placed on probation.
“I was really hoping he got the maximum because what he’s done to people who can’t do anything for themselves, is really something,” stated Al Hurlbrink.
Mr. Hurlbrink’s son was also a HARC client.
In addition to the five years, Judge Whittemore ordered Mr. Lilliston repay $657-thousand dollars in restitution, the money that was wrongfully diverted from clients. Not all of that ended up in Mr. Lilliston’s pocket, but as the judge pointed out, it’s not the amount he stole, it’s from who he took it.
If you have a problem you think needs to be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.