Hennepin County workers charged with fraudby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Prosecutors have charged two current and one former Hennepin County human services workers in schemes that they said involved stealing about $162,000 in county emergency assistance and public assistance funds.
According to court documents, employees Felicia Bell, 37, of Brooklyn Park and Yolanda F. Williams, 34, of Brooklyn Center were charged along with five landlords who allegedly received emergency assistance funds for client files that were created by Bell and Williams. And a former human services employee, Aaron M. Shaw II, 28, of Cottage Grove, was charged with fraudulently issuing public assistance funds and withdrawing money from the accounts.
A detective from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office said in the complaint against Bell and Williams that the two worked as human services representatives in the county's Health and Human Services Department. Their jobs included helping clients in need make security deposit and first-month rent payments.
Both Williams and Bell allegedly accessed the emergency assistance system and created files for recipients who either didn't exist in the system or were no longer receiving funds.
They then issued about $88,000 in funds as fraudulent security deposits and first-month rent payments to the co-defendant landlords, and the funds were either cashed or deposited in various bank accounts, according to the criminal complaint. Investigators said the landlords were receiving payments for property that either did not exist or that they did not manage or own.
Bell faces 25 counts of theft by swindle of public funds, and Williams faces 13 counts of theft by swindle and one count of identity theft. Both have been placed on administrative leave from their jobs.
In court documents, the landlords were identified as Keith J. McMoore of Golden Valley, Isreal W. Moses of Brooklyn Park, Tremayne R. Williams of Brooklyn Center, Augastine L. Sylvester of Minneapolis and Cassell A. Bobo of Brooklyn Park.
In a separate scheme, Shaw was charged with theft by swindle and identity theft for allegedly issuing nearly $74,000 in fraudulent public assistance funds. According to the complaint against Shaw, who worked also had worked as a human services employee, he and several other ineligible individuals then withdrew the money from the Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) accounts.
Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said in a statement that the charges against the employees are being taken seriously.
"We are all disappointed with the conduct set forth in these complaints allegedly done by former and present Hennepin County employees," Freeman said. "We will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."