CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Three former workers for the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services have been indicted for theft in office.
Twelve others have been indicted on one count of receiving stolen property for getting some of the funds.
Jacqueline Ward, 40, is charged with one count of Theft in Office (Felony 5) and one count of Tampering with Records (Felony 3). If convicted of both charges, she faces the possibility of 6 years in prison.
Tamikia Mosley, 32, is charged with 1 count of Theft in Office (Felony 3) and one count of Tampering with Records (Felony 3) and she faces the possibility of 10 years in prison.
Savoy Walker, 31, is charged with 22 counts of Theft in Office (Felonies 3, 4, & 5) and 22 counts of Tampering with Records (Felony 3). If convicted of all charges, she faces the possibility of over 100 years in prison.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said it was not a coordinated effort, and all of the suspects worked on their own. All three were employed as Employment Technicians, or case workers.
Deters said the women used their jobs to issue unauthorized food assistance cards, medical benefits and Ohio Works First cash benefits to themselves and the 12 other defendants named in the indictment.
Ward is charged with issuing a Medicaid card to herself, between July 2010 and August 2010, for which she was not eligible. She received benefits in an amount less than $400. She is the only one of the three suspects charged with accepting benefits for herself. She worked for JFS for approximately five years before she resigned under investigation in late summer 2010.
Mosley is charged with authorizing approximately $15,000, between January 2010 and August 2010, for unapproved benefits for a friend. Mosley worked at JFS for approximately 3.5 years before she resigned under investigation in late summer 2010.
Walker is charged with authorizing over $100,000 in unapproved benefits for her friends and family members between October 2008 and July 2011. The indictment charges her with fraudulent activities that continued after her resignation because she put them in place before she resigned and they were not discovered and discontinued until July 2011. She worked for JFS for approximately 3.5 years before she resigned under investigation in late summer 2010.
"They were using (JFS) as a community candy jar," said Deters.
This investigation started in 2010 when internal JFS controls revealed discrepancies which ultimately resulted in a comprehensive audit by JFS investigators and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.
Deters said JFS has taken internal steps to ensure something similar doesn't happen again.
"In today's economic environment when county government is forced to close jails and lay off deputies, seeing this theft of taxpayer money is disgusting," said Deters.
"The reality is the bulk of our employees are honest, hardworking people," JFS Chief Operating Officer Tim McCartney said. He says it is really a testament to the oversight policy in place at the time that the illegal actions were caught in the first place.
"I would tell you that the vast majority of our staff are honest people, hardworking. Its unfortunate that we had a couple of people who thought they could get away with it," said Moira Weir, director of the department.
"We will certainly endeavor to show we're good stewards of the taxpayer dollars," McCartney emphasized.
Both Weir and McCartney say the department has been taking steps to ramp up their checks and balances system. They say they have added more supervisor reviews and reviews by every layer of management. They are also increasing internal controls by limiting case worker access to different parts of the caseload. Finally, they are requiring more digital imaging of paperwork to help with oversight.