Feds want to know what happened to $600K apparently missing from Safety Net of Oregon

Willamette Week, March 18, 2014

Safety Net of OregonInvestigators for the Social Security Administration seized computers, personnel and client files, bank records and correspondence when they executed a search warrant March 6 at Safety Net of Oregon, a Portland nonprofit that manages about $1 million in disability and veterans benefits.

Search warrant records, obtained by WW from federal court files, reveal federal officials wanted to know what happened to $600,000 that appears to be missing from the non-profit’s books.

Officials weren’t convinced when Chief Executive Officer Linda Stelling told them the money wasn’t missing, but that the non-profit’s computers had simply suffered a “software” problem.

Safety Net manages federal benefits for about 1,000 senior citizens, disabled people and veterans. Street Roots newspaper first broke the news of the raid of the non-profit’s offices.

The search warrant documents show Social Security inspectors paid Safety Net a visit last spring, and that inspectors found that Linda Stelling seemed “overwhelmed during the visit and she discussed having to reduce her staff due to costs. ”

The inspectors were concerned to learn that Safety Net hadn’t performed routine checks, such as verifying fund balances, and keeping accurate records and receipts.

When they asked for a year’s worth of bank statements, Safety Net gave them one month’s worth. Later, Social Security inspectors couldn’t reconcile the organization’s figures.

Documents say that Linda Stelling last month told inspectors that a software glitch was responsible for the accouting disparity. Federal officials then went to Safety Net’s technical support staff, Robert Schwoeffermann. Schwoeffermann, court records say, said he had never heard Stelling complain about software problems, but he had see her open up files and change  figures.

The Social Security Administration in February told the Stellings their status as an approved provider would end effective April 1.

If you need a representative payee, see Disability Rights Oregon’s list: http://www.droregon.org/resources/disability-news-now/safety-net-payee-service-shutting-down