State investigates systemic theft of developmentally disabled by state employees

Posted at 8:36 AM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 11:50:31-04

State investigators are looking into a series of systemic theft and money mismanagement of developmentally disabled individuals at the hands of state employees.

Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott released a report highlighting, 10 separate cases, 2 right here in Western New York, where employees from the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities stole personal funds from developmentally disabled residents for their own personal use.

A developmental assistant in West Seneca reportedly stole more than $250 dollars in September 2012 from six residents and used that money to go out to dinner and take her family to see a live show - neither of which any residents were invited. Lynn Knightner was later arrested and pleaded guilty to larceny and falsifying business records. 

Another employee in Cattaragus County was charged with stealing a total of $820 dollars from seven residents in 2013. 

In light of these reports, the OPWDD has agreed to review their current procedures and strengthen polices based on recommendations from the state. The office released the following statement:

“OPWDD vigilantly guards persons served by our system from this kind of abuse. When theft is identified, OPWDD takes all available employment actions against the perpetrators, moves to protect the impacted parties, and works closely with the Inspector General’s Office to bring the perpetrator to justice.  As soon as OPWDD learned of the issues covered in the IG report it reacted aggressively to safeguard the personal accounts of people receiving services.  OPWDD has proactively implemented improvements to our system, such as standardizing audit procedures, improving training requirements and implementing new purchasing policies, to protect the funds of people we support. ”