87.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


According to charges announced by the V.I. Justice Department Wednesday, one former employee responsible for collecting and depositing child-support payments is facing 27 counts of embezzlement and another who held a similar post is accused of 12 counts of lying to the government in order to secure food stamps and public housing.
The allegations have to do with two separate cases, according Justice officials. However, an affidavit by a Justice agent filed in Territorial Court implicates both Dina Hermon, charged with embezzlement, and Cheryl Serrant, accused of welfare fraud, in the falsifying of records concerning the collection of support payments and their deposit into a Division of Paternity and Child Support bank account.
Hermon, charged with the embezzlement, is alleged to have defrauded the division of cash which she received but never deposited in the Banco Popular account, which she was charged with maintaining.
Serrant, in charges unrelated to her former employment in the department, faces 12 counts of filing fraudulent government claims, obtaining money under false pretense and perjury.
Both women were suspended from their jobs in the St. Thomas division office in mid- 1999, and, based on investigation findings, were terminated late last year.
According to Justice officials, the department's White Collar Crime Unit launched the investigation into the collection and deposit operations after an audit found $238,992.59 missing over four years, from 1996 through 1999.
In the affidavit filed with the court on Wednesday, a Justice agent said the investigation focused on both women, each of whom had worked as a collector/cashier at the department. The agent stated that, in each case for which a deposit shortage was noted, one of the women had hand-written the receipt, entered the transaction into the computer, or prepared the deposit slip.
Changes on the deposit slips, initialed by Hermon or Serrant, "reflected a lesser dollar amount having been deposited than the actual amount collected," the affidavit states. Checks collected were fraudulently substituted for cash collected so as to give the appearance that all cash collected was deposited, it states, and in some instances, money collected never appeared on deposit slips.
The affidavit cites the following as an example: "A parent made a payment in cash at the Office of Paternity and Child Support in the amount of $1,200," and Hermon signed and issued a receipt for the payment. But investigators have "determined that this amount was not deposited, the receipt was not accounted for, and there was no record for the receipt."
It is alleged that the cash was embezzled in August, October and November of 1998 and in April, May, June and August of last year.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron, appearing on a WSTA Radio talk show Thursday, said although the cash was not being deposited, the Paternity and Child Support Division "continued to make payments" to those certified to receive them. "Eventually it would have collapsed," he said of the scheme, describing it as a "rob Peter to pay Paul scenario."
In the case with which Serrant has been charged, Justice alleges that in application for re- certification for participation in the territorial food stamp program, she submitted a memo dated July 21, 1998, stating that she "does not receive child support for her five children," whose father is Cecil Fahie. She is further accused of submitting similar statements for re-certification in the "Section 8" public housing program.
According to court documents, "Notarized statements from Serrant to both agencies were submitted on May 20, 1999; July 20, 1998 and June 30, 1997." But, according to the documents, as part of the application for further re-certification for food stamps on February 4, 2000, Fahie submitted a statement saying that "he provides whatever his children needs."
No date has been set for the arraignment of either defendant. Each was served on Wednesday with a summons to appear in court to face the charges. As no arrest was made in either case, there will be no advice-of-rights hearings and each defendant will make her initial appearance in court at arraignment proceedings.

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