Friday, November 18, 2011

FBI Investigates Lackawanna Family Court - Pa.

Blogger Note:
While this story talks about situations that appear to do with divorce custody cases but we posted it because we would think that the same would hold true in other forms of child welfare cases.

Dave Bohman

Action 16 Investigative Reporter

We know more about why Federal Officials are investigating a program in the Lackawanna County Family Court system.

In September, and again this week, FBI agents confiscated records from Family Court.

Newswatch 16 has learned the Guardian ad Litem is a court appointed lawyer who represents a child while its mother and father try to settle custody cases.

One or both parents are required to pay the fees for the Guardian at Litem's services. Sources tell us Federal agents are looking to see if parents were cheated, and if the fees were pocketed.

A woman who does not want to be identified because she`s testified to law enforcement agents claims she was cheated out of thousands during supervised visits with her young son.

"It broke me," she said. "Paying that amount of money. It broke me."

Her ex has custody of her son.

Lackawanna County records showed that she was supposed to pay $20 an hour for a caseworker to supervise her weekly visits.

Instead, she said she was charged $65 an hour.

"One hour, and the hour would go by so quick," the woman recounted of her visits. "Here`s my money. I see my son for the hour. Goodbye."

She also said the caseworker insisted on taking cash and refused to write receipts.

"I didn`t get any receipts no," the woman said. "I tried very hard. She said the County knows how much you`re paying."

Sources tell Newswatch 16 several non-custodial parents are complaining that they`ve been overcharged for supervised visits and not given receipts. And a recent federal subpoena of the Guardian ad Litem`s office appears to be getting some answers.

Court papers show a Federal Grand Jury directed the Lackawanna County Courts to give investigators every case supervised by Attorney Danielle Ross. She runs the Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem program, and assigns caseworkers for supervised visits.

This woman said Ross was the guardian ad litem for her son. The woman claims she was overcharged between $1500 and $2000 in the last two-and-a-half years.

"You don`t want to give up," she tells us. "So just keep fighting, because it`s just not fair for people to get away with lies and deceitfulness. And then they work for the County? It`s unexplainable."

We tried to contact Guardian ad Litem Administrator Danielle Ross. Her secretary said Ross was busy with clients when we visited, and Ross did not return our phone calls.

There have been no criminal charges filed in the case.

Meantime, the woman you heard from is now paying just $20 and not $65 dollars an hour for visitation, after telling her story to law enforcement.


No comments:

Post a Comment