TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the return of $310,000 to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) for false claims made against APD by the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc., d/b/a the Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Center (HARC). The agreement with HARC, in settlement of the civil case only, is based upon allocations of $254,758 to APD for civil damages and $55,242 to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) for investigative expenses. However, CFO Atwater is giving his agency’s funds to APD to be used to benefit the Floridians whom APD serves.
CFO Atwater, through the DFS Office of Fiscal Integrity, received a request for assistance from the APD in early 2011 regarding HARC. As a result DFS conducted an investigation into HARC regarding the management, administration and billing practices for the HomeLink Program from 2008 through 2011. The HomeLink Program was designed to provide physically and/or developmentally disabled adults with the opportunity for job training and wages by employing them to provide senior citizens at risk of nursing home placement with housecleaning, yard work, companion, and other services that would enable the senior citizens to remain in their homes.
The investigation revealed that HARC significantly overbilled for services, billed for customers who were deceased at the time the services were allegedly provided, and billed for salaried HARC employees who clearly did not qualify to be paid under the HomeLink Program.
“This is an unconscionable example of the misuse of taxpayer dollars that were intended to benefit the most vulnerable citizens of Hillsborough County,” CFO Atwater said. “It is a travesty that HARC, an organization trusted in the community to care for those with developmental disabilities, abused that trust and put vulnerable citizens at risk of having to be uprooted from their homes, friends and caregivers.”
As the false claims and fraud occurring at HARC were uncovered, it became clear that HARC’s financial situation was rapidly deteriorating. Due to HARC’s insolvency, APD began arranging alternative housing for the residents of HARC’s facilities when a transfer of those facilities to another APD provider was organized so that the residents would not be negatively affected by relocation.
“My commitment is to the safety and wellbeing of the clients we serve,” Barbara Palmer, Director of APD, said. “I am very happy that the clients of HARC are being served by a new provider, in their same homes with no interruption of service. I want to thank CFO Atwater for his hard work in this case and for the return of this money to APD.”
CFO Atwater’s Office of Fiscal Integrity is responsible for statewide investigations of allegations of fraud, waste and abuse involving State of Florida property and money. To report fraud, waste or abuse of state resources visit http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity at (850) 413-5514.