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Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven today sentenced the former Chief Financial Officer for Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Centers (HARC), Frank Pannullo (71, Land O’ Lakes), to two years in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to make false statements to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). The Court also ordered him to pay $617,435.19 in restitution, jointly and severally with other related defendants, and to serve a three-year term of supervision following his release from prison.
According to court documents and trial testimony in a related case, the HARC, formerly the Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, was established in 1953 to positively impact the future for all people living with developmental disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome. HARC opened and operated group homes that served its target client population. HARC also spearheaded various community programs for its clients focused on inclusion activities for youth, adults, and seniors with disabilities.
Many of the HARC clients received SSA benefits due to various developmental disabilities. For certain HARC clients who lacked the capacity to manage their own SSA benefits, SSA approved one or more HARC officials to act as a “Representative Payee” to receive a particular client’s benefits and to use them exclusively for that client’s benefit. As a Representative Payee, the HARC official was required to complete and submit to the SSA a “Representative Payee Report” that included certain information about each HARC client’s living situation and the financial benefits received and expended on behalf of that client.
Pannullo began working at HARC in 1998 as HARC’s Comptroller and was thereafter elevated to Chief Financial Officer (CFO). While working in that capacity, Pannullo, HARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Lilliston, and others, orchestrated a scheme whereby HARC client funds, purportedly saved solely for HARC’s developmentally disabled clients’ needs and use in a HARC bank account dubbed the “Endowment Account,” had been and were being wrongfully diverted from the clients to the HARC operating account for other purposes.
In an effort to conceal that HARC client funds were being wrongfully diverted from the developmentally disabled clients and to make it appear as if HARC’s Endowment Account had been properly established and maintained, CEO Lilliston, in November 2009, directed Pannullo and HARC’s Comptroller to secure signatures from the developmentally disabled HARC clients on a document backdated to 2007, titled “Pooled Trust Joinder Agreement.” Pannullo and HARC’s Comptroller did as instructed, knowing that the HARC clients who signed the Pooled Trust Joinder Agreement document did not have the capacity necessary to understand the import of the document. Notwithstanding, CEO Lilliston, CFO Pannullo, and other HARC employees signed the backdated agreements.
In June 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem in a related case (Case No. 8:13-cv-1601-T-17TBM), seeking the forfeiture of $87,000 held in a Synovus Bank account. That complaint raised like allegations that HARC clients’ SSA benefits had been wrongfully diverted from the clients and used by HARC for other purposes and was supported by facts contained in the sworn affidavit of a special agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General. On September 30, 2013, the district court entered a Default Judgment of Forfeiture in which the court ordered the forfeiture of the $87,000 to the United States.
This case was investigated by the Social Security Administration - Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, along with the State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services - Office of Fiscal Integrity. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay G. Trezevant.