Janel Phillips did a lot of job-related traveling. At least that's what her time sheets said. The reality was different. As a result, she'll have to serve some prison time. On July 2, Phillips, an ombudsman for Legal Aid of West Virginia, a Legal Services Corp.-affiliated nonprofit group, received a 10-month sentence in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia for obtaining false reimbursements. The sentence will consist of five months each in the form of prison time and home detention. She also will have to make $85,327.74 in restitution. Phillips pled guilty on March 27.
On the surface, Julie and Andrea Matau were rescuing females from abusive relationships. Beneath the surface, however, they were abusing taxpayer trust. On March 28, the mother and daughter were sentenced in Oakland, Calif. federal court for their roles in the theft of nearly $160,000 in grant money from the Samoa-based Legal Services Corporation (LSC) affiliate that employed them. Julie Matau received a sentence of one year and a day in prison, plus three years of supervised release, while her daughter received a sentence of 12 months of probation, including six months of home detention. They also were ordered to perform community service and make full restitution. Another former employee of the LSC grantee, David Wagner, several days later on April 2 was sentenced in St. Louis federal court to five months in prison for taking part in the scheme.
Submitted by NLPC Staff on Thu, 03/22/2012 - 13:55
NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm has submitted this written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which is holding a hearing today on funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC):
Members of the House Committee on Appropriations are certainly used to hearing from representatives of federally-funded programs about the good work done by such programs and why they need many millions more in taxpayer funds, despite the unsustainable national debt. This year the Legal Services Corporation has submitted a FY2013 budget request for $470 million.
At least Cheri Logue paid back what she stole. Otherwise, things might be looking worse. On March 1, Logue, former secretary-bookkeeper for Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services Inc. (SPLS), was sentenced in Pittsburgh federal court to 22 months in prison for embezzling more than $188,000 from the Legal Services Corp.-funded organization. She had been fired from her position in June 2008 following growing suspicions that she had stolen funds.
Kenneth Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center in Falls Church, Va., was once a senior official of the Legal Services Corp., serving as counsel to its board of directors from 1991 to 1994.
Since then, Boehm has been one of the LSC's most persistent critics, urging reform and even elimination of the agency. Last year he testified before the House Judiciary Committee, asking members to reject a bill that would have, in his view, eliminated many of the beneficial reforms Congress enacted in 1996. He warned that if the bill passed, "once again Legal Services will be known as a federal program plagued with unaccountability and controversy." The bill died.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday defeated an amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would have eliminated the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), the amendment should not have been necessary. Appropriations Committee Hall Rogers (R-KY) protected LSC by inserting only a modest cut of $70 million in the Continuing Resolution. He should have zeroed it out. In fiscal year 2010, LSC received $420 million.
In response to criticism that his first round of cuts did not go far enough, House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers (R-KY) has now produced a continuing resolution with $100 billion in cuts. Amazingly, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) again survived relatively intact.
Instead of a modest $75 million cut, Rogers has now increased the cut to a modest $85 million. Even the size of these cuts is illusory because they are off of President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget figure of $435 million. When applied against the $420 million that LSC actually received in 2010, the latest cut is only $70 million.
In the budget cuts announced today by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is slated for a token $75 million reduction. This is a genuine outrage. LSC should have been zeroed out completely.
In a statement today titled "CR Spending Cuts Go Deep," Rogers says, "Make no mistake, these cuts are not low hanging fruit." This is nonsense. Defunding the politicized and scandal-ridden LSC should have been easy. If the Republican Congress can't even cut off LSC, how will it ever make the tough choices necessary to reduce the deficit?
One way to view Benjamin Louis King's situation is that it could be worse. That's because his total theft may have been good deal higher than the amount for which he was prosecuted. King, for three decades the chief of finance for the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, along with an accomplice, Wendell Jackson, was sentenced in Baltimore federal court on December 14 for embezzling over $1 million from the bureau. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake gave King 30 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release; she gave Jackson 15 months in prison. Each also must make restitution. "Bennie King abused his position of trust for over a decade and stole more than $1 million through a longstanding fraud scheme," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. "What makes the case even more offensive is that the $1 million would have paid for legal services for the poor.
James A. Wayne Sr., executive director of Capital Area Legal Services Corporation (CALSC), must have a taste for irony. He's reportedly making a list of employees to lay off by year's end. Yet wasteful and possibly illegal spending by his Baton Rouge-based organization could pay for the annual salary and benefits of a few staffers. That's a logical conclusion anyway in light of a report (see pdf) released September 27 by Legal Services Corporation's Office of Inspector General (OIG) identifying more than $300,000 over several years in undocumented and/or ineligible costs at CALSC. Wayne, though vowing to work with the OIG to better document expenses, has disputed the findings. The accompanying summary broadcast put together by the WBRZ-TV Channel 2 local news team in Baton Rouge suggests he doesn't have an easy case.