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GBI raids Columbus DFCS over allegedly falsified documents
Sept. 5, 2012 — State and federal agents seized documents and planned two arrests today in an investigation of alleged falsification and alteration of child-abuse intake reports.
Felony warrants were issued for the arrest of Deborah Cobb, who used to run the Division of Family and Children Services’ Muscogee County office, and intake supervisor Phyllis Mitchell. Investigators are trying to determine whether reports were falsified to make it appear Georgia was opening abuse cases more quickly so DFCS could qualify for millions of federal dollars that had been withheld.
From the GBI’s news release:
Today Special Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and deputies with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s office served a search warrant at the Muscogee County Offices of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). Agents will also execute arrest warrants for Muscogee DFCS Intake Supervisor Phyllis Mitchell and former Muscogee DFCS Acting Director Deborah Cobb. Cobb served as the acting supervisor for Muscogee County for approximately 1 ½ years. She currently serves as the Director of Social Services. Both women are changed with 1 count of violating O.C.G.A. 16-10-20 Making false statements and writings, concealment of facts, and fraudulent documents in matters within jurisdiction of state or political subdivisions and O.C.G.A. 16-10-72 Subornation of false swearing.
District Attorney Julia Slater requested GBI assistance on August 15, 2012 after learning of an active investigation being conducted by DHHS-OIG investigators. District Attorney Slater was notified after information was developed indicating supervisors at the Muscogee County DFCS Child Protective Services office were alleged to have destroyed, delayed, changed and falsified the intake of child abuse reports in order to maintain compliance with internal DFCS guidelines regarding the evaluation and response to allegations of child maltreatment.
A number of federal grant programs administered by the DHHS use information provided by Georgia DFCS to determine Georgia’s compliance with federal requirements. One requirement is the timeliness of initiating child maltreatment investigations. Georgia DFCS was required to complete a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) for failing to meet federal requirements. The federal government withheld millions of dollars in grant funding from DFCS as a penalty for failing to meet the PIP requirements. After completing a second PIP, data submitted by DFCS indicated that the program came back into substantial compliance. At this point, the funding was released by DHHS. The investigation focuses on allegations that the data was systematically falsified.
If true, the falsification of government records is a felony under Georgia law. The September 5th search was performed to locate and gather records stored at the Muscogee County DFCS facility. At the conclusion of the investigation, a case report will be turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for review and any prosecutorial actions deemed appropriate. The investigation remains active and no further information will be released at this time.
The following statement was contributed by Derrick Jackson, Special Agent in Charge for the Atlanta Regional Office for DHHS-OIG:
“The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General takes the welfare of the Nation’s children very seriously, and we are proud to be part of this investigation. This investigation is an example of how much can be accomplished when Federal and State law enforcement work together. Through the hard work of our agents and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the most vulnerable children of Muscogee County will be better served and protected.”