Fraud is a crime that hurts many people. But, it is also a crime that requires many people to pull off correctly. This is arguably the most disheartening fact about fraud. It not only demands that criminals come up with inventive ways to unjustly scheme others out of what belongs to them, but it needs other criminals to cover up those actions. Sadly, would appear to be the case in the State of Ohio, where Auditor, Dave Yost works.
In a recent report by Randy Ludlow in The Columbus Dispatch, it is revealed that complaints of government fraud are being kept confidential by Yost’s office, where the State of Ohio’s fraud-complaint database is maintained. Ludlow writes that since lawmakers mandated that the list be placed online in 2012, Yost’s office has received nearly 2,500 complaints. Of those complaints, about 1,500 are considered confidential.
According to Yost’s office, these files are being kept confidential because they involve both current and completed investigations. The problem is that government workers who are being accused of fraud are being protected, as a result. “Every complaint marked as ‘in progress’ or referred to another agency for a closer look reveals nothing about which governmental entity is involved or the nature of the suspected wrongdoing,” explains Ludlow.
Ben Marrison is a spokesman for Dave Yost. He claims that the State Auditor’s office strongly campaigns for transparency, but is bound by the state’s laws to protect certain information. Marrison also notes that the online fraud-reporting program has proven very valuable to the office as it has led to millions of dollars in audit findings for recovery, criminal convictions and civil actions, Ludlow reports.
He goes on to provide the following examples: “A former county employee’s tip led to the arrest of former Fairfield County Clerk of Courts Deborah Smalley, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for corruption. Another complaint sent a Columbus man to prison for stealing $116,000 through a bogus tutoring company.” Unfortunately, there remain far too many cases where the violations and their violators remain a secret.
What is preventing these complaints from becoming public? Apparently, the State of Ohio does not require other agencies to report the outcomes of their investigations. As a result, the complaints cannot be marked “closed” or become public. Yost, however, wants this to change through a better classification of cases. “His office is asking lawmakers to require outside agencies to report their findings to allow the log to be updated,” says Ludlow.
Dennis Hetzel firmly agrees. The president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association believes that “they should be going back and making more items and information public once a case is resolved.” However, it doesn’t appear if there is a whole lot that Yost and his office can do. After all, reveals Ludlow, the government agency with the most fraud complaints in the Internal Revenue Service.
The Allegiant Experts team is committed to helping bring about the type of change that lessens the number of fraud occurrences in our country, but also brings to justice those who perpetuate crimes of fraud. For information about how our clinical experts can help your legal battle against fraudsters, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 407-217-5831.