Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Senior Center
An update on a 7News investigation tonight. A stinging report from officials accusing a Sunrise senior center of running a scheme to over bill the county. Carmel Cafiero first broke the story and is back on the case.
It's free for them, paid for by Broward County.
But now the Broward inspector general, after a months long investigation says the center billed the county for seniors who were not on their buses.
John Scott: "We're calling it a pattern to over bill."
John Scott says several bus drivers gave statements they were ordered to falsify rider records.
John Scott: "We weren't able to quantify all of that misconduct. We did identify almost $30,000 worth of billing where folks simply weren't on the bus.
This last January 7News first exposed issues with the center's billing practices.
A former employee told us he had been ordered to report people were on his bus when they were not.
Victor McCleod: "It really hit home when I had a senior that went from the daycare center to the hospital via ambulance. She had a medical emergency and as a result I was directed to indicate that she had taken the bus home as opposed to the ambulance. Well of course you can't be in an ambulance and on a bus ride home at the same time."
First Victor McCleod and now the inspector general's report identify Victoria Young, the center's transportation manager as the person ordering drivers to make false reports on riders.
According to the inspector general, Young even told drivers how to get around a GPS system.
John Scott: "She told them to actually drive their bus to a location, wait, and then leave without picking up anybody and that way it would falsely register that someone had gotten on the bus."
But Young's attorney says it's not true and dismissed the allegations as false claims by disgruntled former employees.
And he points out there was no benefit to Young in terms of money or raises.
Scott Levine: "What you're seeing here is that she somehow was the ringleader and we absolutely dispute that and it just doesn't make any sense."
No one from the Cantor Center would agree to an interview, but in a letter to the inspector general the center's attorney wrote it "emphatically rejects the allegations" of the investigation.
It will be up to the county to determine if the bus contract remains in place.
Last year the tab was nearly half a million dollars for more than 27,000 trips.
The inspector general says the report has now been sent to the Broward State Attorney's office to determine if any criminal laws have been violated.
If there's something you think Carmel should investigate, send an e-mail to clue@wsvn.Com.