By Deb Murphy
Tuesday was a tough day for witnesses going into the second week of the embezzlement trial of Dawndee Rossy. Three witnesses called by the prosecution had worked with Rossy over the years; two described her as “smart and capable.”
Rossy is on trial for allegedly embezzling $1.5 million from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Eligibility and Employment Department.
The District Attorney’s investigator Stephanie Renni concluded testimony begun on Monday, outlining the timeline of the early investigation and the results of a search of Rossy’s office in Bishop.
Renni was asked to assist Bishop Police Department on January 16, 2013. The following day, she met with then BPD Chief Chris Carter, County Human Resource Director Sue Dishion and H&HS Director Jean Turner who had staff looking for discrepancies in the department’s case files. The same day, she and BPD officer Mark Gutierrez interviewed Rossy and took a quick scan of her office.
January 18, the locks were changed on Rossy’s office and Renni conducted a search. That search turned up a list of documents relating to names later identified as among 34 case files pulled for the trial.
DA Thomas Hardy’s questioning focused on the documents found in Rossy’s office and names involved in the investigation but not located in Inyo County during a specific time frame. Defense attorney David Evan’s questioning honed in on who was involved in providing information relevant to the case, primarily Sheri Snyder who, with Rossy, worked as supervisor in the department.
Renni, who had worked with Rossy on welfare fraud cases for three years, spoke with Snyder after her interview with the defendant on January 17 and was informed that there were a number of discrepancies in the department’s files. Initially, the investigation involved two cases, with a list of Electronic Benefit Transaction card activity that led to surveillance videos shown in court February 22. But, according to Renni, that number grew to 34 within the first week of the investigation.
According to Renni, there were two parallel case file investigations, one conducted by Breanne Nellums, the other by the computer database system, CIV, managers. Nellums turned up 34 cases; the CIV managers 35, but one was eliminated. Renni said she was initially told Nellums and Snyder were running case files, but she was “not sure how far Snyder was involved.”
Snyder was scheduled to testify last Thursday. However, according to Hardy after Tuesday’s trial was adjourned, a previous witness had testified that Snyder and Rossy had “created documents” for the annual Federal audit. Snyder was assigned a lawyer and advised to provide only “biographical” information, according to Hardy.
In an e-mail following the first day of the Rossy trial February 22, Hardy had indicated the DA’s office (under then DA Art Maillet) investigated the entire department and found no other criminal activity.
Nellums, employed as an administrative analyst for H&HS’ fiscal department from November 2005 until 2015, basically traced income and benefit expenditures for social services. She explained the function of the CIV system as calculating benefit allocations for clients and the State Automated Reconciliation System, linked to the a bank account at Union Ban,k balancing income from the state and federal governments with client withdrawals.
She also identified the EPIC system, described as “a backdoor if CIV went down.” The EPIC system had to be input into CIV manually. Rossy was the only person in the department with access to EPIC that Nellums was aware of.
Nellums was brought into the case by Turner and told to look at issuances on a few specific case files. Later she went through Integrated Aid Payroll data looking for multiple issuances of benefits in the same benefit month, going back as far as 2002. Nellums also testified that Snyder’s involvement with her investigation was limited to deactivating EBT cards.
Hardy showed Nellums 34 SARS Archive Data Reports with dates from August 2005 to November 2011 and ending from March 2011 to early January 2013.
Under cross examination, Nellums said the volume of data was whittled down to the final 34 cases by running the data reports on Rossy’s cases with multiple issues in a month, excluding multiple issuances not managed by the defendant.