Agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation raided the Columbus offices of the Department of Family and Children Services and arrested two employees. According to the Bureau, a supervisor and former director of the agency are accused of falsifying documents and making false statements in an attempt to regain lost federal funding for DFCS. Both women now face felony charges and, if the allegations are true, the state could potentially face civil penalties over millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained federal support.
According to reports, the Department of Health and Human Services provides federal grant money to state-administered child welfare agencies. In order to receive the funding, states must comply with federally mandated standards. These include requirements for timely initiation of investigations into alleged child abuse. Previously, DFCS failed to meet federal standards and DHHS withheld funding. In order to regain the funding, Georgia was required to show that it had initiated a “Program Improvement Plan,” ensuring that federal requirements would be satisfied. The false statements and document falsification charges arise out of the new records provided to DHHS by the Columbus child welfare office.
Authorities allege that the DFCS supervisor and director submitted false information about the steps that were taken to comply with federal standards. The GBI and Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater now claim that the new data was “systematically falsified” and that problematic records were destroyed. The state has not provided any information, however, about why these two women in particular were arrested and what evidence shows fraudulent intent on their parts. For the time being, only the government’s bare allegations are known. Right now, the women appear to face only state criminal charges, but if the federal government believes that it received fraudulent information, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will have jurisdiction and could potentially bring federal charges as well.
Charges of public corruption are often not as clear-cut as the GBI and state prosecutors would like them to seem. Our criminal defense attorneys have a very successful track record representing government employees and officials accused of wrongdoing and have been able to get very serious charges dismissed. Other times, we have succeeded at obtaining not guilty verdicts at trial where we feel prosecutors have wrongfully pressed forward with baseless charges.