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Tampa Bay’s two bigger job adjustment agencies handed out $6 actor in Visa and gas cards aback 2014 – all paid for with accessible tax dollars – and a allotment of that money went to bodies who didn’t use the centers to acquisition assignment and never had to annual for how they spent it.

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A cardinal of recipients told the Tampa Bay Times that they accustomed the allowance cards artlessly for advertisement to either appointment aback they begin jobs on their own.

Abounding Florida job centers action to pay for gas, clothes or tools, usually for bodies who best charge banking advice to get work.

But CareerSource Tampa Bay, which serves Hillsborough County, gave out far added cards than any added jobs centermost in the state. CareerSource Pinellas ranked fourth amid the state’s two dozen career centers.

The Times interviewed added than 50 people, including accepted and above CareerSource advisers and individuals who accustomed the cards; advised hundreds of pages of accessible records; and analyzed two databases to account how the agencies broadcast the money.

Amid the findings:

Juditte Dorcy, the acting administrator of CareerSource Tampa Bay, accustomed that her agents needs to advance administration of the cards. They are advised for those who can’t allow busline or accoutrement that could advice them acquisition employment, she said.

“We appetite to absorb our money, but we appetite to be safe about it,” she said.

Kerry Myers, a advocate and above FBI abettor who teaches argumentative accounting at the University of South Florida, alleged the use of the cards a “red flag” that should activate added investigation.

Myers said the cards “are the aforementioned as banknote and backpack a aerial accident of embezzlement, theft, fraud, decay and abuse.”

The bounded job centers acquire continued boasted they are the best in the Sunshine Accompaniment at putting bodies to work. But the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and U.S. Department of Labor are investigating both offices afterwards a alternation of Times letters alleged their hiring numbers into question.

Lath associates accursed Edward Peachey, the admiral and CEO who ran both agencies, beforehand this year, and canton commissioners are afterlight the centers to accommodate stricter oversight.

The address in which the agencies broadcast the cards abashed several lawmakers, who wondered whether any bounded CareerSource leaders bankrupt the law. Florida’s two U.S. senators acquire now asked the Labor Department to add the allowance agenda affairs to its investigation.

Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement: “These latest revelations of artifice and bribery afresh authenticate a absolute bribery of these programs. Bad actors should be on apprehension that this will not go abroad and they will pay the after-effects for their wrongdoing.”

BACKSTORY: 

CareerSource centers took acclaim for bags of hires they had annihilation to do with

Payroll annal appearance $3.1 actor in bonuses, incentives at CareerSource centers

Tampa Bay jobs centers entered bags of apocryphal buzz numbers in accompaniment network

* **

Francis Ousley remembers CareerSource Pinellas couldn’t advice him advance his computer abilities aback he was out of assignment as a database developer aftermost year. The classes were too easy.

Before he chock-full going, a advisor told Ousley, 28, she would accelerate him money if he told her aback and area he begin a job on his own. He did, and the advisor beatific him a $200 prepaid allowance card, which he spent on tolls and gas.

“It absolutely took me by surprise,” Ousley recalled.

The state’s CareerSource centers alternation jobseekers on basal skills, like interviewing and architecture resumes, and accomplice with others to advise specialty skills, such as adjustment and nursing. They afresh try to advice bodies acquisition assignment at hundreds of companies that assurance up with CareerSource to acquire referrals.

Bodies who aggregate unemployment allowances are appropriate to analysis in at a bounded CareerSource office.

Afterwards an antecedent session, abounding audience lose blow with their attorneys and acquisition assignment on their own, like Ousley. That makes it difficult for CareerSource to accumulate clue of them.

In Hillsborough and Pinellas, attorneys paid them – through the cards – to analysis aback in. CareerSource admiral at added offices about Florida said they don’t use the money that way.

Josephine Johnson, a Hillsborough Canton teacher, accustomed assorted emails in backward 2016, months afterwards she begin a job on her own. One said she was “eligible for an allurement agenda due to award employment.

“How you acquired the job does not matter, whether you begin it on your own or through CareerSource Pinellas,” the email stated.

Johnson didn’t acknowledge to the offer.

Freda Drake did.

Drake chock-full activity to CareerSource Pinellas in 2017 and afterwards begin a business position on her own.

Afterwards accepting several requests for her hiring details, Drake provided the advice and accustomed a $50 allowance card, which she spent at Bealls.

Timothy Seckerson, 48, said he already had a advance on a acting job with the U.S. Postal Service aback he went to CareerSource Pinellas backward aftermost year. He concluded up alive for two weeks about the holidays. Annal appearance CareerSource beatific him a $50 allowance agenda in January, which he said he acclimated to awning his cellphone bill.

“They said I could use it for anything,” he said.

Employment application contest are acquaint central the antechamber at the Science Centermost at CareerSource Pinellas Tyrone centermost in St. Petersburg. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]The Times could not actuate absolutely how abounding cards were exchanged for hiring details, because the agencies did not log anniversary transaction.

“I didn’t apperceive about that,” said Dorcy, who served as a top abettor beneath Peachey aback he oversaw both agencies.

CareerSource Pinellas acting administrator Jennifer Brackney, addition administrator beneath Peachey, beneath to be interviewed for this article.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: CareerSource baton Ed Peachey, already advised Mr. Fix It, now beneath scrutiny

At CareerSource Research Coast, which serves Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties, staffers use allowance cards primarily as a arch to advice bodies get to a new job and off of accessible assistance, said admiral and CEO Brian Bauer.

Richard Williams, controlling administrator at CareerSource Chipola in the Panhandle, said his bureau would never barter a allowance agenda for bushing out paperwork.

The accompaniment DEO said it didn’t apperceive how the bounded agencies were application the cards but said it will authority admiral answerable who didn’t “act ethically and responsibly.”

“We apprehend every CareerSource lath to be acceptable admiral of aborigine dollars,” backer Tiffany Vause said in a statement.

***

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) accessories is stored in a classroom at Pinellas Technical College’s Clearwater campus. CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay handed out bags of dollars in allowance cards to apprentices, including the HVAC affairs sponsored by a bounded barter alignment at the campus.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]Hundreds of bodies who calm cards from the job agencies got added than aloof a little gas money.Nearly 700 took in at atomic $1,000 in cards, 85 percent of them from CareerSource Tampa Bay, annal show.

A cardinal of the bigger recipients were already active aback they were offered money.

They were alive abounding time as apprentices and enrolled in training centers such as the Clearwater campus of Pinellas Technical College or through the International Union of Operating Engineers in Tampa.

The Times interviewed 10 bodies in the amateur programs at PTC, administered by St. Petersburg-based Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (RACCA). Anniversary said they didn’t go to CareerSource for advice and abounding out paperwork aback bureau advisers offered the cards at chic orientations. Best of them declared the cards as “free money.”

“CareerSource said that was declared to be confidential,” Michael Howard, affairs administrator for the operating engineers, said about apprentices who got cards. “I can’t allocution to you.”

Union admiral did not acknowledgment calls for comment.

Cheryl Harris, the controlling administrator of RACCA, said CareerSource approached her alignment about giving cards to the heating, blast and air conditioning (HVAC) apprentices.

“We were not buried to how they handed (the cards) out,” she said.

Aaron Mohammadi, an HVAC apprentice, accustomed 28 cards account $3,700 — the best in Pinellas County.

Mohammadi, 31, who said his employer paid for his training, said he never asked CareerSource for assistance.

He accustomed bristles $200 cards on Nov. 7, 2016 and addition six $200 cards on Nov. 2, 2017, annal show. CareerSource, he said, gave him a $100 agenda anniversary ages for gas afterwards he beatific a argument or email to affirm he remained in the program.

“They showed up at acclimatization and gave us this accomplished spiel” on how to ample out paperwork, he said  “It was appealing accessible actually.”

Benjamin Decker, addition HVAC apprentice, calm $3,400. Before accepting the cards, he said, career attorneys appropriate acceptance to accomplish a account of accoutrement they capital to buy.

Shaun Size, who operates cranes as a affiliate of the International Union of Operating Engineers, said he bought a hammer, a adamantine hat, a apparatus belt and assignment boots aback he got the aboriginal of his cards accretion $1,600. He additionally said he never went to CareerSource for help.

HVAC accessories sits in a classroom acclimated for training apprentices, some of whom accustomed CareerSource allowance cards. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]During an interview, Dorcy was afraid aback the Times showed her a account of the hundreds of bodies who calm added than $1,000 in cards. Career counselors, she said, acquire an obligation to accomplish abiding recipients qualify.

Bodies who get the cards charge acknowledge they acquire a banking need, according to Dorcy, and attorneys apprehend honesty. She vowed to investigate why so abounding bodies accustomed assorted cards.

“Maybe there is article we can do to attending into this so there is some believability there,” she said.

Robin King, admiral and CEO of CareerSource Flagler Volusia on the state’s East Coast, said the bureau caps the cards at $200 per person, and anniversary almsman charge accommodated acrimonious guidelines, such as actuality unemployed or accepting accessible assistance.

Williams, of CareerSource Chipola, said his bureau buys tools, uniforms, books and added food for trainees beeline from vendors, rather than handing out cards.

“We appetite to accomplish abiding it gets spent on what you’re declared to be accomplishing with it,” he said.

***

Admitting they dealt with beyond sums of money than about all of their peers, the bounded CareerSource offices put in abode beneath checks on their allowance agenda affairs and eschewed accepted blank practices.

Several CareerSource admiral in added genitalia of the accompaniment told the Times they crave jobseekers to assurance paperwork in actuality to accept cards.

But not in Tampa Bay. In bags of cases, CareerSource Pinellas staffers beatific cards account a absolute of $242,000 to bodies by mail and recorded them as a “mailout.” CareerSource Tampa Bay annal do not account a cipher for mailed cards, but Dorcy accustomed the practice.

The centermost acclimated addresses for unemployed job seekers that were logged into a database, Dorcy said. But staffers did not chase up to accomplish abiding the cards were accustomed by the appropriate people.

Myers, the USF professor, said argumentative accountants would appetite adjoin sending prepaid cards by mail because “it is the aforementioned as commitment cash.”

In assorted cases, CareerSource annal announce addition was paid who afterwards told the Times they didn’t accept a allowance card.

Valerie Tooma, a animal assets professional, and Glenna Wiseman, who works in nursing and home healthcare, said they never got their cards in 2016 and were afraid to be listed as recipients.

“That’s a joke,” Wiseman said. “That’s not true.”

Barry Clark, who enrolled at CareerSource Tampa Bay aback he filed for unemployment in aboriginal 2017, additionally begin a job on his own and provided the information. But a allowance agenda never arrived.

“How abounding added bodies did this appear to?” he said.

Some added agencies use reloadable allowance cards, alone abacus money aback job seekers complete training or defined tasks. Some accord out allowance cards for specific stores, like Walmart, attached area the money can be used.

Annal appearance that best of the allowance cards broadcast by the bounded CareerSource offices could be spent anywhere. They doled out about six times as abundant in prepaid Visa cards – added than $5 actor – than in gas cards.

CareerSource staffers are declared to run account checks on the allowance cards anniversary month, with two altered advisers administering abstracted counts. But assorted CareerSource Tampa Bay account bedding provided to the Times dating to aftermost November alone had one count.

Dorcy accustomed that they did not chase able procedures and abhorrent it on abbreviate staffing. “They acquire been counseled,” she said.

Beforehand this year, a above agent was arrested. Over the advance of several months, badge said, the woman had baseborn $6,700 in gas cards from her office.

***

Edward Peachey (left), the accursed above admiral and CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, acclimated prepaid cards to accord his advisers bonuses, according to annal and interviews. At appropriate is his attorney, Marion Hale. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]Prepaid allowance cards additionally were acclimated to accolade advisers at the two job centers.

Peachey gave $40,000 in cards to staffers but did not address that as assets to the Internal Revenue Service, annal show.

Acting leaders at the agencies now accept that was wrong.

Administrators said the agencies bought those cards with tax dollars but afterwards reimbursed the money from clandestine donations and fees calm at job fairs.

“We had altered programs area we had recognition,” Dorcy said. “That’s not article we’re continuing.”

Peachey, according to Dorcy, told leaders to activity cards for contests like fundraising drives for the agency’s disturbing Science Centermost of Pinellas County.

READ: CareerSource Pinellas bought a science center. Now the bill is advancing due.

Six accepted and above staffers told the Times they acquainted burden from Peachey to accord money. If they did, they were acceptable to win allowance cards.

But the rewards were not advance out evenly. High-ranking administrators and their ancestors were at the top, annal show, including administrator Kristin Dailey and her husband, Michael ($2,125), and Animal Assets administrator Alice Cobb and her daughter, Lindsey, ($1,950).

BACKGROUND: Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a adulation affair, big raises and ancestors discrimination at the top

CareerSource Pinellas lath armchair Jack Geller beneath to allocution at breadth about how Peachey broadcast the cards.

***

Juditte Dorcy, acting administrator at CareerSource Tampa Bay, said she didn’t apperceive that the agencies gave allowance cards to bodies who aggregate their job advice with the career centers. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]Elected admiral in Tampa Bay had no abstraction that the bounded job centers had spent so abundant on cards and handed them out so freely.

Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Amends alleged it “flabbergasting.”

“You acquire either abject banking mismanagement, or worst-case book aloof absolute banking corruption,” he said.

READ: They were declared to watch over CareerSource. Abounding didn’t appearance up.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he alerted federal regulators about the Times’ latest findings.

Dorcy said federal and accompaniment auditors acquire already told the agencies they charge to apparatus bigger practices. Those accommodate alternating advisers who verify and calculation the cards and training staffers annually.

Two added assembly alleged for added analysis into what they speculated could be accessible bent violations.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said in a account that “these latest letters of aggressive artifice at CareerSource appearance the bribery was worse than we feared.

“As the misdeeds accumulation up, and abound in severity, amends charge be served.”

Accompaniment Rep. Chris Sprowls, a above prosecutor and Palm Harbor Republican, said CareerSource anon needs bigger oversight.

“This is what happens aback organizations acquire admission to ample sums of money and accomplish with little blank and no transparency.”

Senior account researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996 . Chase @MarkPuente. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Chase @ZackSampson.

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