Press release from Inyo County DA Thomas Hardy
Former Inyo County Health & Human Services Integrated Caseworker Supervisor Dawndee Rossy was sentenced today to nine years in prison to be served at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Ms. Rossy has been in custody at the Inyo County Jail since August 29, 2016, and will soon be transported to the reception center for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,543,785.24, plus an additional $272,491.00 for unpaid state income tax.
The sentencing followed a long legal process which began in January, 2013 when irregularities were discovered in a public assistance benefit case supervised by Ms. Rossy. Upon being interviewed by Bishop Police Department and District Attorney Investigators, Ms. Rossy admitted her involvement in diverting public assistance monies to her own use.
The complex investigation that followed revealed over thirty false or fraudulent welfare accounts created or reopened by Ms. Rossy. The evidence at trial showed that she developed a sophisticated plan whereby she acquired social security numbers and other identifying information for individuals living throughout the country and created public assistance benefit accounts on their behalf in Inyo County. The benefits were then placed on electronic benefit cards (similar to ATM or credit cards) which she then used to withdraw cash for her own benefit. Ms. Rossy forged and filed hundreds of false documents in the cases, creating a realistic looking “paper trail” justifying the benefit awards. None of the individuals whose identities were stolen were aware that their identifying information was being used improperly. Obviously forged documents were found in a search of her office, and she was recorded using electronic benefit cards issued to fraudulent cases at local financial institutions.
The trial in her case began in February, 2016 before the Honorable Philip Argento, who was assigned to the case by the California Judicial Council. Over the course of the multi-week non-jury trial, over 450 exhibits were admitted into evidence, and the court heard testimony from more than twenty witnesses. On August 15, 2016, Judge Argento found Ms. Rossy guilty of 88 separate felonies including grand theft, embezzlement, conspiracy to commit theft, misappropriation of public funds, forgery, identity theft, manufacture of deceptive identification documents, filing false documents in public records, and state income tax evasion. He also found to be “true” various enhancements regarding the amount of loss, and found that Ms. Rossy had misappropriated $1,543,785.24.
The investigation was coordinated by DA Investigator Stephanie Rennie and Bishop Police Officer Mark Gutierrez (now an Inyo County Sheriff’s Deputy). The tax fraud investigation was conducted by Special Agent Karen Lees of the California Franchise Tax Board. District Attorney Tom Hardy personally handled the trial proceedings.
Invaluable assistance was also provided by the Fiscal Services office of the County Department of Health and Human Services as well as current and former Health and Human Services Employment and Public Assistance staff.