Last fall, we showed you undercover video exposing waste insidethe Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Fourfraud investigators were caught by our undercover unit runningpersonal errands and spending "R & R" on the taxpayers'dime.
After our piece aired, the four workers were suspended, withpay. Now we've learned two are back to work and two no longer workfor the state.
In theoriginal Target 12 Investigation "Fighting Fraud," we followedthe state's four "fraud and overpayment" investigators over severalmonths. Their job takes them on the road investigating phonyunemployment and disability claims. Their daily itineraries,obtained by Target 12, are supposed to tell their supervisors wherethey are and when.
But often we found them miles from where they claimed to be, athome or doing personal business. For example, one itinerarysubmitted to a DLTsupervisor shows that on September 14th, investigator DebraLombardi was supposed to be on Howard Ave in Cranston at2:30pm.
But we found her at home.
Time and again, we found a pattern of questionable behaviorduring months of surveillance. After our request to interview theinvestigators was denied, we caught up with Lombardi leaving worklast fall.
Debra Lombardi: "On my investigations I can't comment."
Tim White: "Your itineraries show you are not investigating. Theitineraries I have right here, you say out doing an investigation,but we find you at home. How do you explain that?"
Debra Lombardi: "Have a nice weekend."
Director Sandra Powell, Department of Labor and Training: "I cansay that Miss Lombardi is no longer with the state service."
Was it resignation or termination? DLT Director Sandra Powellsays she can't get specific on personnel actions. But the presidentof the union that represents these workers tells Target 12 theyare fighting the termination of Debra Lombardi.
In a statement, Local 401 President Lynn Tipton says:
"We are going to be consistent with the credible evidence outthere, and not the sensationalized evidence put out there byChannel 12, and we'll take the appropriate actions as we alwaysdo."
Director Powell said, "We really took a look at the unit and wereally revamped our processes to both the internal processes interms of how the unit functions and also the oversight of theunit."
Director Powell says they now have a management person dedicatedfull-time to the fraud unit. They've also revamped their itineraryreporting process to tighten up on oversight of theinvestigators.
As for the three other investigators, DLT officials say AllynBosworth retired shortly after the report aired. InvestigatorClaribel Terrero is back as a fraud investigator. And David O'Brienis now working in the Unemployment Insurance Call Center as aSenior Employment and Training Interviewer.
Powell says, by law, she can't comment on the level ofdiscipline for each worker. But the union tells us, simply, theyare fighting all disciplinary actions.
"I would say that our investigation was a solid investigation,but it was certainly added to by external information from both theBureau of Audits, Channel 12's film was very important, and thenthe additional work that the State Police did," said Powell.
No Criminal Charges
Powell says they asked the State Police to step in to explorethe possibility of criminal charges. In the end, a state prosecutordecided not to press charges.
In a letter to the state police, Assistant Attorney General J.Patrick Youngs says it would be difficult to file charges based onedited video from Channel 12, rather than State Policesurveillance.
The letter also reveals that of all the months worth of findingsused in the Target 12 Investigation, on just two days, a separatewitness each for two of the investigators recalled them workingaround the time our undercover video clearly had them out onpersonal business.
And because their job legitimately takes them on the road, itwould make it hard for prosecutors to prove their guilt beyond areasonable doubt.
The prosecutor says while "all employees did, to varyingdegrees, take advantage of the loose work environment and lack ofsupervision," it was Debra Lombardi that troubled him the most,saying "She certainly personifies all that is reflected in thepublic's stereotype of a lazy, arrogant state employee."
Youngs goes on to write, "There is absolutely no doubt in mymind that her employment with the Department of Labor and Trainingdeserves and needs to be terminated."
Once again, our request to interview the fraud investigators,this time through the union, was denied. The union president saysthe termination of Debra Lombardi will most likely end up inarbitration.
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