Auditors with the Palm Beach County Office of the Clerk & Comptroller uncovered more than $1 million in questionable expenses by guardians and conducted 84 investigations into alleged fraud in the year since Palm Beach County Clerk Sharon Bock launched the Guardianship Fraud Hotline for Palm Beach County.
Local law enforcement also is expected to arrest three suspects based on cases initiated by the clerk’s auditors. “In just one year, we’ve made tremendous strides in protecting Palm Beach County’s most vulnerable citizens,” Bock said. “I know that as word continues to spread about our Guardianship Fraud Hotline, we’ll be able to find even more potential fraud and make perpetrators think twice before taking advantage of our most vulnerable citizens.”
The program’s success has drawn national interest. Bock recently presented at the annual conference for the National Guardianship Association and was invited by the Tennessee Bar Association to speak about the Guardianship Fraud Hotline and audits as Tennessee considers possible changes to its conservatorship law.
Bock created the Guardianship Fraud Hotline in anticipation of an increase in guardianship cases in Palm Beach County, as well as the need to investigate claims of fraud, waste and financial mismanagement by court-appointed guardians for elderly, minor children or incapacitated individuals. The hotline was the first of its kind in Palm Beach County, and among the first in Florida.
Anyone who suspects a guardian, family member, attorney or caregiver of improper financial activities such as stealing money from a ward’s account, selling off a ward’s property or making suspicious loans or money transfers is urged to call (561) 355-FRAUD (355-3728). Reports also can be made by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or online through the Clerk’s Guardianship Fraud Hotline page at www.mypalmbeachclerk.com/fraud.