Georgia taxpayers lost money to Obamacare, the American Rescue Plan and unemployment fraud 

WRITER’S NOTE: The following is a monthly compilation of alleged or documented stories about waste, fraud or abuse of taxpayer money or taxpayer-funded resources throughout Georgia. Material was gathered using government documents, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s original reporting and/or previously published news articles.

Obamacare Strikes Again: Augusta taxpayers will have to make up the difference after the IRS slapped the city with a $2 million fine last month.

“A copy of the bill obtained through an Open Records Request shows that it is from 2017 and includes more than $157,000 in interest,” according to the Augusta Press.

“The penalty was assessed because the city did not file the proper annual documentation related to The Affordable Care Act, according to several sources within the city government. Those same sources indicated that 2016 was the only year the city filed the proper paperwork, and they expect to receive a bill for penalties and interest for 2018 through 2021 in addition to the current bill. If those bills are comparable, that would mean the city could owe the IRS over $10 million.” 

COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud on a Massive Scale: State workforce agencies in five states, including Georgia, paid millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained benefits in COVID-19 unemployment insurance (UI).

Rowlando Hatter Jr., of Smyrna, Ga., obtained the personal identifying information of unwitting victims and used that information to fraudulently request COVID-related UI benefits. Hatter electronically submitted applications to several states, including Georgia, California, Arizona, Maryland and Michigan, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

“The state workforce agencies paid approved claims by issuing debit cards that were mailed to addresses in the metro-Atlanta area and in Michigan, and that were controlled by Hatter and co-conspirator Clyde Parker. Some of those addresses included UPS mailboxes opened by Hatter and Parker. Hatter and Parker used the debit cards at various ATMs to withdraw cash. Hatter kept the proceeds after paying Parker a fee,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“As a result of the scheme, more than 200 claims were submitted to the various state workforce agencies between May 2020 and October 2020 using the PII of approximately 124 individuals who had no knowledge of the fraud. In total, the state workforce agencies paid approximately $3,300,000 on the bogus claims submitted in this fraud scheme.”

In December, Hatter was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, after pleading guilty to those charges. Last month U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones sentenced Hatter to five years and nine months in prison. Jones also ordered Hatter to pay more than $2.9 million in restitution. 

Parker, of Troy, Michigan, was sentenced in January to four years in prison. He was also ordered to pay nearly $600,000 in restitution.

Do School Administrators Ever Read Where’s Waldo?: Taxpayers in Taliaferro County paid big money for certain items for their local school district, but school administrators apparently cannot find them.

Members of the Taliaferro County Board of Education could not locate four out 13 depreciated assets to determine if they were still in use, according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. The audit did not specify what those assets were.

But state auditors said in a new report that that wasn’t the school district’s only problem.

“Two fully depreciated buses were disposed of prior to year-end but were still included in the School District’s capital asset listing,” according to the audit.

School district employees also did not have a physical inventory of the district’s capital assets. 

American Rescue Plan Money Got Wasted:  Six school districts in Georgia misused money they accepted from federal taxpayers, via the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund program, according to state auditors.

Those school districts — in Atkinson, Barrow, Hall, Long, Newton and Banks counties — spent nearly $720,000 combined on non-allowable expenses. This money mostly went to contractors who were not school district employees, which violated the terms of the ESSER funding.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) accepted the ESSER money from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and distributed it to local education agencies (LEAs).

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