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Trying to get apartment, employee committed fraud

Thursday, December 5, 2019 by Jo Clifton

An Austin Public Health employee misused her city computer, fax machines and the department’s patient records in an attempt to rent an apartment, according to an investigative report from the Office of the City Auditor.

The report states that Johnetta Lindsay, who worked as a patient representative with Austin Public Health, created fake job offer letters, not only from the health department but from other companies. Investigators found that Lindsay sent at least one of those letters to try to prove that her income was significantly higher than it actually was.

Lindsay told auditors she planned to submit a fake letter showing a salary of more than $65,000 “because it was three times the annual amount of the apartment, an amount she believed would meet the complex’s income requirement.” That would seem to indicate an $1,800 monthly rent on the apartment she was applying for.

Lindsay used the name of a relative in the fake documents she created at work, according to the report. She used the name of another department employee (misspelling the name) as part of her ploy to show that she was in line for a higher paying job. In addition, she created a fake title for the employee supposedly making the job offer.

According to the report, Lindsay admitted forging the other employee’s signature on the letter, but said the employee was aware Lindsay was using her name. “However, when we spoke with the employee in question, they said Lindsay had only asked them to be a ‘reference.’ The employee said they were unaware that Lindsay intended to use their name on a fake letter and said, ‘I would never, ever, falsify something like that.'”

Auditors noted that Lindsay told them “she had permission to use the name and corporate logo of one of the companies whose fake job offer letters we found on Lindsay’s city computer. According to Lindsay, the permission came from her friend, who Lindsay claimed was the CEO and founder of the company.”

However, after auditors attempted to verify that claim and could not find the name of the person on the company website or in its phone directory, they spoke with the person in question. He told them that he was not familiar with the company and denied being its CEO or founder. “The person admitted to knowing Lindsay and giving her permission to use them as a ‘personal reference.’ However, the person denied knowing Lindsay’s relative for whom the fake job offer letter was written. Additionally, they said they had never given Lindsay permission to use their name on fake job offer letters.”

In addition, Lindsay “created a fake patient in the department’s patient record system,” investigators said. She also used that record system to scan and attempt to fax personal documents. After observing this, some of Lindsay’s co-workers became suspicious and reported her activities to their supervisor, who passed the information along to more senior officials in the department.

Brian Molloy, chief of the auditor’s investigative team, praised Austin Public Health for starting the investigation and passing the matter on to his office. “Once they realized it was within our jurisdiction … they wanted us to investigate it. As far as we’re concerned, they were great partners.”

Although the city was not the target of the fraud, Molloy said, Lindsay used city resources in order to advance the fraud. In addition, he said she lied to investigators during interviews. Austin Public Health put Lindsay on administrative leave in March. Prior to initiation of disciplinary action, Lindsay resigned, according to a memo from APH Director Stephanie Hayden to Molloy. Lindsay could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Photo by John Flynn.

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