Pittsford woman to repay more than $7,000 in exchange for probation in welfare fraud
By ERIC FRANCIS
CORRESPONDENT | March 30,2013
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Pittsford woman who had been facing a dozen felony charges alleging welfare fraud and forgery struck a plea agreement this week that will keep her out of jail while she pays the state back $7,230 she received for child care services that were never provided, according to court records.
Beverly Whittemore, 49, pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of false pretenses Thursday in exchange for a 2½- to five-year sentence.
All of it was suspended so she could be placed on probation and begin repaying the funds that Detective Virginia Merriam of the Vermont Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit said Whittemore began improperly receiving in the summer of 2006.
The scheme did not come to light until 2010 when a Rutland woman called the fraud unit and explained that the Internal Revenue Service was after her because she’d supposedly failed to report thousands of dollars worth of income on her 2006 tax returns. The woman said the IRS told her she had been listed as an employee of Beverly Whittemore’s but she told investigators that, while she knew Whittemore, she had never worked for Whittemore nor provided Medicaid-reimbursable personal care services to the disabled child on whose behalf the government payments were supposedly being made.
Merriam wrote in her affidavit that in August of 2010 when she and Special Agent Frank Puleo of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services met with Whittemore and showed her a dozen timesheets that had been submitted for payment, Whittemore insisted the other woman’s signatures were genuine and that the reason the checks had been mailed to Whittemore’s address and Whittemore had co-signed and cashed them was simply because the other woman hadn’t had a bank account at the time.
During 2012, the investigators sent the suspect timesheet and checks along with “known examples” of the other woman’s handwriting and signatures down to Washington, D.C., where they were examined by experts at the Forensic Document Laboratory run by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Office of Inspector General.
Merriam said that while the examiners had no way of telling who forged the signatures, they were able to conclude that they were not the “natural signatures” of the woman whose name was used but instead were “drawings of signatures” done by someone who appeared to have been slowly and deliberately copying them onto the paperwork rather than writing at a normal speed.
As a final condition of the plea deal struck on Thursday on Whittemore was also barred from ever working as a Medicaid provider or employer in the future.