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Ex-DSS staffer accused of fraud

SoVaNow.com / February 27, 2013
A former employee of the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services has been charged with 27 felony counts of welfare fraud, forgery, perjury and unauthorized use of food stamps, marking the latest turn in a state probe that began in August.

Lorenda A. Wells, 44 of Baskerville, was arrested Friday without incident at the South Hill Police Department. She was later released on a $10,000 secured bond pending a scheduled court date on Friday, March 1, at which time she will be advised of her rights to an attorney.

Investigators are not disclosing the dollar amount of the food stamps Wells allegedly misappropriated.

Previously, Wells worked for the Department of Social Services office in Boydton as a benefit program specialist with the federal food stamp program, known as SNAP. In August, Mecklenburg Sheriff Bobby Hawkins called for a State Police investigation of Wells, based on information he received regarding irregularities involving the county SNAP program.

An audit of the department’s books and records in June and July resulted in a finding that a “Social Services Department employee set up food stamp cases using multiple post office boxes in Mecklenburg County,” as stated in the audit report. “The perpetrator received fraudulent food stamp cards issued through the state and delivered by U.S. mail.”

At the time of the audit, the total amount allegedly collected by Wells was undetermined. Virginia State Police Special Agent K.R. George, with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations Appomattox Field Office, was assigned to investigate the case.

Hawkins said the matter was forwarded to the Virginia State Police “to prevent a possible conflict” because the concern brought forward involved an officer of the county. Similarly, an outside special prosecutor was appointed after Nora Miller, Mecklenburg County Commonwealth’s Attorney, recused herself from the case. At the time, Miller said that because she works with both the Sheriff’s Office and Social Services, the law prevented her from handling a potential prosecution.

Corrine Geller, media relations manager for the Virginia State Police, stated in a press release that the charges were filed after the nearly six-month “investigation revealed the manipulation and fraudulent use of client information and benefits by Wells, while she was employed with the Department of Social Services between 2011 and August 2012.”

Sandra Gregory, who heads the Department of Social Services, said she was not at liberty to discuss the case, but confirmed that Wells is no longer employed with the office. Gregory added that she takes seriously her duty to “protect the money” issued to her department.

To that end, she added, her office has instituted corrective actions to prevent future misconduct, and she will conduct ongoing monitoring of her department to ensure compliance with state procedures.



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Comments

The more money in the gov'ment, the more money there is to steal.
Cut back on gov'ment fraud by cutting back on the gov'ment.


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