The Inyo District Attorney has filed 44 felony charges against former Inyo Health and Human Services Supervisor Dawndee Rossy and her husband Kenneth Rossy in connection with the reported embezzlement of welfare funds. The Rossys were booked into the Inyo County jail Thursday afternoon on numerous charges. They were being held on $500,000 bail each. The amount allegedly embezzled is more than $1.5 million.
In a press release, the Inyo District Attorney said that the Rossys are charged with “grand theft by embezzlement, embezzlement of public funds, grand theft of personal property, misappropriation of public funds by a public officer, welfare fraud, conspiracy to commit grand theft, conspiracy to commit theft of public money, conspiracy to commit welfare fraud, conspiracy to commit identity theft, 31 counts of identity theft, three counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and possession of a controlled substance.”
Off the record sources outside of the Health and Human Services Department said that Health Director Jean Turner had issued a memo to all employees Thursday to say that an arrest had taken place and that the amount embezzled was over $1.5 million. In a press release issued by Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio, he says, “The amount stolen is now estimated at $1.565 million.”
Carunchio said that Rossy was terminated from her job in the Welfare Office on February 8, 2013, “after Health and Human Services officials reported to authorities that she was suspected of embezzling public funds intended to provide assistance to the poorest residents of Inyo County.”
As for the actual arrests on Thursday, reports said that District Attorney investigators assisted by the Inyo Sheriff’s Department arrested the Rossy’s and took them to the Bishop Police Department. They were placed in holding cells, and officers then transferred them to the County Jail in Independence.
It was January 22nd when Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter confirmed that his department had launched an investigation into what appeared to be the embezzlement of funds inside the Inyo Welfare Office in Bishop. Within days, Dawndee Rossy was identified as a “person of interest.”
Officers had served a search warrant at the home of the Rossys in Bishop. At that time, officers arrested Ken Rossy who they said was in possession of a controlled substance.
The Inyo County press release also includes statements by Board of Supervisors Chair Linda Arcularius, who said the Board and County staff have been “shocked and outraged ever since this abuse of position and the taxpayers’ money came to light.”
The release also says that while the DA and police pursued a criminal investigation and prosecution, “County staff began exploring possible strategies to help get restitution. Additionally, staff initiated and continues to work with County departments, State officials and other California counties to fully evaluate how an employee could work around the multiple safeguards built into the system to prevent fraud and identify how these measures might be improved.”
County officials say there have been adjustments to existing processes and the introduction of new safeguards. County Auditor-Controller Leslie Chapman said that the County has maintained good controls but, she said, “It is very difficult to stop a management person in a position of trust and authority from circumventing the system.”
Chapman said the County is making changes in safeguards and “teaching staff how to recognize the signs of fraud with a safe reporting mechanism such as a confidential fraud hotline.”
The Inyo County Administrator ‘s press release follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Kevin Carunchio
Suspects Arrested in Public Funds Embezzlement Case
Independence – Inyo County officials were gratified that the District Attorney filed charges yesterday that will begin the prosecution of a former welfare worker accused of embezzling public assistance funds. The accused employee was terminated from her job on February 8, 2013, after Health and Human Services officials reported to authorities that she was suspected of embezzling public funds intended to provide assistance to the poorest residents of Inyo County. The amount stolen is now estimated at 1.565 million.
“The Board and County staff have been shocked and outraged ever since this abuse of position and the taxpayers’ money came to light,” said Linda Arcularius, Chair of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors. “The District Attorney’s filing of charges is an important step toward getting justice on behalf of the public and sending a clear message that abuse of public funds will not be tolerated.”
While the District Attorney and the Bishop Police pursued the criminal investigation and prosecution, County staff began exploring possible strategies to help get restitution. Additionally, staff initiated and continues to work with County departments, State officials and other California counties to fully evaluate how an employee could work around the multiple safeguards built into the system to prevent fraud, and identify how these measures might be improved. These efforts have resulted in adjustments to existing processes, and the introduction of new safeguards. The County is also pursuing new initiatives such fraud detection and reporting training for employees.
“The County is diligent about maintaining good controls, but it is very difficult to stop a management person in a position of trust and authority from circumventing the system,” said Inyo County Auditor-Controller, Leslie Chapman. “Still, we are making changes to improve our safeguards and teaching staff how to recognize the signs of fraud and give them a safe reporting mechanism such as a confidential fraud hotline.”
The County recognizes and is grateful for the immediate and thorough response from its law enforcement partners in the County and at the City of Bishop.
Questions regarding the details of the case and criminal prosecution should be directed to the District Attorney’s Office.