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Palm Beach County Division of Inspector General Joins Forces With Guardianship Fraud Auditors To Yield First Arrest

palm-beach-county-clerk-and-controllerA father charged with using more than $58,000 from his daughter’s guardianship account to fuel his lavish spending – including a 2007 Jaguar XK and a flat-screen TV – is behind bars after an investigation by my Guardianship Fraud Program.

Willie E. Lockridge of Nashville, TN, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on January 25, after he was arrested by Nashville police. He faces charges of grand theft and organized scheme to defraud of more than $20,000.

My accredited  Division of Inspector General began their investigation into Lockridge, 41, in August 2012. They received a tip of some unusual activity in a guardianship account, and their investigation found that Lockridge convinced his brother – the guardian for Lockridge’s daughter – to cash a $58,866.61 check designated for deposit only to the girl’s guardianship account.

The money intended to provide for the girl’s future – proceeds from the 401K plan of the girl’s deceased mother – was instead used by Lockridge to buy the Jaguar, a 54-inch plasma flat-screen television, airplane tickets for his girlfriend, jewelry, shoes and other items (full story, source).

The Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller is your public trustee, responsible for safeguarding public records and public funds. The Florida Constitution established the Clerk & Comptroller as a Constitutional Officer, directly elected by and accountable to Palm Beach County citizens.

Message From The Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller Sharon R. Rock

My accredited Division of Inspector General has joined forces with my skilled guardianship auditors to begin conducting the highest level of fraud investigations possible on more than 2,600 guardianship cases. Never before in our county’s history have our most vulnerable citizens been so protected.

These audits, which are designed to better identify guardianship fraud, waste and financial mismanagement, come at such a critical time. It is estimated that as Palm Beach County’s senior population continues to grow, guardianship cases will increase 15 percent, or 400 cases, per year. The program, which is no additional cost to taxpayers, also serves our most innocent citizens, unemancipated minor children.

What Is Fraud?

Fraud refers to an intentional deception or misrepresentation by a person with the knowledge that the deception could result in some unauthorized benefit to him/her or some other person.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Theft or misappropriation of the ward’s funds or property
  • Purchase of assets using the ward’s funds
  • Using proceeds from the sale of the ward’s assets for personal gain
  • Opening credit cards, loans and credit lines in the ward’s name for personal use
  • Forging or altering official documents
  • Submitting fictitious or inflated expenses or fees for reimbursement
  • Intentionally mismanaging funds to the guardian’s benefit

Source: Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller Fraud FAQ

Fraud is a deliberate misrepresentation that causes a person or business to suffer damages, often in the form of monetary losses. All of these elements are usually required for an act to be considered fraud; if someone lied about his name, for example, it would not be fraud unless in so doing, the person caused someone else to lose money or suffer some other damage

West Palm Beach Fraud Crimes Attorney

In Florida, most fraud changes involve the Economic Crimes Division (ECD) putting together a great amount of evidence for presentation before a grand jury. The best way to resolve these cases is for your lawyer to have a good working relationship with the prosecutor and to try to avoid any serious consequences by paying restitution. In Florida, restitution outweighs incarceration, so if your lawyer can persuade the victim to drop charges in favor of receiving their money back, you can usually avoid a conviction.

At the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., in West Palm Beach, we have extensive experience representing people charged with fraud crimes, including mortgage fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, tax evasion, insider trading, theft by fraudulent means, writing bad checks, and organized schemes to defraud. To protect your money and your freedom, we will be proactive in addressing the underlying criminal charges, whether that is drug trafficking, fraud, or another white-collar crime.

Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.

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