Thursday, February 6, 2014
Funds Allegedly Embezzled from "Distinctive Human Services" - a Pennyslvania Cambria County Guardianship Agency
According to a source close to the matter, more than a quarter of a million dollars has been bilked from the accounts of several dozen wards.
The nonprofit agency, Distinctive Human Services (DHS), serves as legal guardian to elderly and disabled people assigned to its care by the courts because they are unable to handle their own affairs.
A court document from the Cambria County Court of Common Pleas, scheduling a Jan. 3 status conference, said its purpose was “to update the court on the status of the investigation and expected payments on claims made by Distinctive Human Services … as a result of the embezzlement of funds by an employee.”
The claims were made with DHS’s insurance companies to cover the allegedly embezzled funds, according to Johnstown resident Joe Stigers, who was at the status conference in Judge Patrick T. Kiniry’s chambers.
He said the judge, the attorney for DHS and representatives of their insurance companies referred to the amount missing as more than $250,000.
Stigers’ wife was in the care of DHS for about a year and a half, but he is now her legal guardian and looking to recoup funds on her behalf.
Agents with the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia acknowledged an investigation involving DHS, but refused to comment because of the agency’s policy not to talk about ongoing cases.
Ellen Hamilton, executive director of DHS, did not return telephone calls to her home or office, but sent PublicSource an email.
“I cannot talk about any aspects of the business at DHS due to the fact we would be violating confidentiality and HIPAA laws,” she wrote, referring to the privacy rules established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The investigation is not the first of DHS’s troubles.
DHS also served as guardian to a woman whose death became a point of contention for the owner of the Washington County personal-care home where she lived.
Bonita Carter, 47, died in June after refusing kidney dialysis. The personal-care home owner, Garry McGrath, told PublicSource that he felt the guardian did not make enough effort to convince Carter to continue treatment.
He has petitioned the state Department of Public Welfare for a review of the case.
In August, PublicSource published an article about Norma Carpenter’s concerns about her 83-year-old mother, Mary Little, who has dementia and became a ward of DHS.
Carpenter, of Indiana County, said she is unaware of the current state of her mother’s finances.
“I’m concerned about everything,” she said. “This is an absolute travesty, and there’s no control. I’m not alone.”
Full Article and Source:
Funds Allegedly Embezzled From Cambria County Guardianship Agency