Saturday, November 17, 2007

One Person Can Impact the World

Or at least rip off the citizens of Washington, DC to the tune of $20 million and counting. Those of you who don't live in DC may haven't seen the story of Harriette Walters and Diane Gustus, DC tax & revenue employees who have stolen over $20 million from myself & other DC residents. Of the money only $4 million has been retrieved. The rest has gone into cars, houses and a host of expensive goodies.

Over a number of years the pair has been issuing tax refunds to friends & relatives that they didn't deserve, to say the least. Here's a link to a list of WaPo articles on the topic. The spending spree included $1.4 spent at Neiman-Marcus, a Bentley, and today's list of items retrieved from Walters' home - "more than 100 pieces of jewelry, a mink coat and 90 purses -- many of them such designer brands as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci, . . .68 pairs of shoes, designer luggage and other luxury items. Some of the goods were stored in the garage, near a 2006 Mercedes-Benz, . . . a pair of silver-plated iguana figurines, a silverware set, a Rolex watch and a silver bar cart."

How did this all happen, you ask? As do I - having been paying taxes in DC for many many years now. Here's what the WaPo had to say:

A Washington Post analysis of city records has found a total of $31.7 million in questionable property tax refunds dating back seven years -- including $346,700 to one fictitious company named "Bilkemor LLC."

The Post identified 92 payments to companies that prosecutors have identified as dummy corporations, for properties that have no connection to the firms receiving the checks. The analysis comes as federal prosecutors do their own review in the biggest corruption case in local government history.

Federal authorities initially said the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue had lost more than $16 million in a brazen refund scam orchestrated by a mid-level manager. They later upped the figure to $20 million and warned that the damage could be even higher as their investigation continues. Yesterday, law enforcement sources confirmed that taxpayer losses could reach $30 million or more.

The Post's analysis showed that the volume and pace of suspicious activity at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue reached its peak in the past three years. Of all real estate tax refunds issued in that span, about half appeared suspicious.

And of the $37 million refunded from the start of 2005 to July 2007, the dubious checks total more than $19 million.

Harriette Walters, the former manager in charge of property tax refunds, was arrested Nov. 7 and is charged with signing off on payments to sham companies controlled by family members and others who were in on the scheme. Six people have been charged, including tax employee Diane Gustus, one of several city workers who prepared or handled paperwork leading to the checks.

So far, prosecutors have publicly accused Walters and others of conspiring to fabricate 58 fraudulent refund checks, amounting to $20 million, and then using the sham companies to steer money to themselves. In court papers yesterday, prosecutors said that Walters has "confessed" to the activities and that she "approved each and every fraudulent voucher."


Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

This a great mystery...I'm on a committee trying to hire an historian of American women, and we can't even breathe without having at least two other people involved. i can't all by myself veto any applicant, and everyone is evaluated with extreme care, by at least two people and often more than that according to a strict series of questions and criteria. at every stage of the process, the committee must report to the human rights office, the dean and assorted other administrators/accountability people. and there's barely any money involved here!

How are these embezzlers able to avoid accountability, letting someone else monitor their transactions? it sounds as if someone was asleep at the wheel for quite a long time.

2:26 PM  

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