WEST PALM BEACH — Auditors with the Clerk & Comptroller’s office uncovered more than $1 million in questionable expenses by guardians and conducted 84 investigations into alleged fraud in the year since the Guardianship Fraud Hotline for Palm Beach County launched.
Clerk Sharon Bock’s office anticipates the arrest of three suspects based on cases initiated by the Clerk & Comptroller’s auditors.
“In just one year, we’ve made tremendous strides in protecting Palm Beach County’s most vulnerable citizens,” Bock said.
“I know that, as word continues to spread about our Guardianship Fraud Hotline, we’ll be able to find even more potential fraud, and make perpetrators think twice before taking advantage of our most vulnerable citizens.”
The Guardianship Fraud Hotline was the first of its kind in the county, and among the first in Florida.
The clerk’s office created the hotline in anticipation of an increase in guardianship cases in the county, as well as the need to investigate claims of fraud, waste and financial mismanagement by court-appointed guardians for elderly, minor children or incapacitated individuals.
Anyone who suspects a guardian, family member, attorney or caregiver of
improper financial activities such as stealing money from a ward’s account, selling off a ward’s property or making suspicious loans or money transfers is urged to call 561-355-FRAUD.
Reports also can be made by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or online through the clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page, at: mypalmeachclerk.com/fraud
Those reporting suspicious activities are not required to provide personal information and can remain anonymous.
The clerk’s Division of Inspector General will investigate all claims of guardianship fraud, make recommendations and notify the court if any inappropriate activity is found.
The office also will refer cases to law enforcement for additional actions if necessary.
The clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page includes information about the different types of fraud, how to file a report of suspected abuse, links to frequently asked questions about guardianship fraud and to other resources for reporting physical abuse or neglect of children and the elderly.
The program’s success has drawn national interest. Clerk Bock recently presented at the annual conference for the National Guardianship Association, and was invited by the Tennessee Bar Association to speak about the Guardianship Fraud Hotline and audits as Tennessee considers possible changes to its conservatorship law.
For more information visit mypalmbeachclerk.com or call 561-355-2996.