February 10, 2000


The good news is that our former member, Henrietta Knapp, is back with us. She and Harold Lian were married this past August, still living in Malibu, and it's good to have you back, Henrietta. The sad news is that Mary Jane Marshall died earlier this week. She had lung cancer, and it suddenly became virulent, apparently. Memorial services are pending, but will probably be held on the 18th of February - stay tuned, please.

After a rainy start, we got underway when Prez BOB asked YOE what those damn three Conditions of Rotary this ear were, and of course I could only think of one…We moved on anyway, with ANN ELKIN leading the Pledge, followed by a triumvirate of BRUCE HARRIS, MARK BLOCK and BILL MAXWELL combining to lead us in Dixie. (That's the song, not the place)…Some of us had to depend upon lip reading to get some of the words, but it all ended well, which is what counts. DAVID MATSON stepped forward as a substitute for MYRON TAYLOR, giving one of MYRON'S excellent prayers. But alas, this didn't save us from the embarrassment of having NO visiting Rotarians.

The day was saved, as well as our minimum guarantee, when PP STEVE SCHERER introduced his Special Guest, Viggo Butler, President of one of the Lockheed subsidiaries. STEVE also brought Deborah May Scherer, his lovely wife - and all this time YOE thought her name was Debby! Jan Colley, wife of our Speaker, was introduced, along with JIM SUMNER'S Special Guest, Warren Dodson. YOE was unable to restrain himself from asking if this meant that Warren was now old enough to be a Rotarian, since he has been on the cusp for some time…

PP RALPH WOODWORTH then announced that, as could be noted, our friends from Guadalajara were not with us. We later learned, via a fax to PP JOHN SINGLETON from Miguel Apodaca that two of the ladies had an auto accident on Tuesday. Thus the group simply became too small, and they canceled entirely. However, since the welcoming party at MIKE O'CONNELS was already scheduled and catered, it would go on as planned. YOE and perhaps 40 other WVRC'ers were there Thursday night, and it was a lovely event. In addition, the SISKEL'S, MULRYAN'S, ANDERSON'S and YOUSEM'S will still be hosting their scheduled dinners, which shows that we WERE prepared to entertain Guadalajara if they had indeed come to L.A.

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, Feb 15th - Board Meeting at PP ERNIE WOLFE'S, 6:30 pm
Thursday, Feb 17th - Tour Meeting on South America, Ernie Wolfe III's gallery, 7:30

And into March -

Tuesday, March 28th - District Breakfast, Fritz Coleman as speaker, at LAX Westin.
Wednesday, March 29th - Yearling party - all invited - at SALLY BRANT'S.

Somehow we slipped up, and had a few minutes of unscheduled (that's called FREE time) before PP STEVE SCHERER introduced our Speaker, Steve Colley. Steve has been with the District Attorney's office for over 20 years, and in January of 1997 was appointed Head of the Welfare Fraud unit - which of course was the title of his talk. The presentation began with an excerpt from ABC's 20/20, which gave an excellent visual overview of what Steve Colley's unit has been doing. As he stated it, the District Attorney's job is to "protect the needy from the truly greedy", and they have found lots of prospects to investigate and prosecute. The Welfare Office distributes over 2 BILLION dollars per year in L.A. County - and that amount of available money is an obvious target for people looking for angles.

To go after individuals committing major welfare fraud, the basic approach is to first rely on informants, then obtain search warrants from the court. If, after investigating, there is probable cause, present the case to the Grand Jury. When prosecution begins, publicizing what is happening is quite important - this kind of news spreads within the 'welfare fraud' community quite quickly. Recovery of assets is an obvious benefit, but the publicity is even more important, since it sends the clear message that the whole area is now under scrutiny. In a recent pilot program in L.A., 30% of Applications were either fraudulent or otherwise not qualified. Do the math - that's a hell of a lot of money saved.

Why is this figure so high? Basically, our entire system of civil law and custom is built on trust - we expect people to tell the truth. But this, apparently, is no longer a practical guideline to depend upon. An outside example - in the MediCal program in L.A. alone, over l.6 billion dollars was billed for non-existent or non-performed supplies and services! The profile of perpetuators of welfare and MediCal fraud points to recent immigrants from Russia and the Middle East, where lying to beat the system is commonplace and accepted as the thing to do. That's why publicity about prosecutions is so important - once put on notice, there is a marked decline in such fraud, and that is much more cost-effective that trying to find and prosecute EVERYONE who commits such fraud.

During the Q&A, someone asked how people getting relatively small welfare checks could accumulate the huge sums mentioned. Turns out this is usually just one of many scams they are conducting, but it does enable investigators to bust them. Penalties include 3 years for fraud, 4 years for perjury, (which usually go together). Now, if you just TRY to commit fraud, that's a misdemeanor - but if you get away with more than $400, that's a felony. Thanks to the two Steve's for this program - you could tell how interesting it was by the attention given, plus the many questions asked.

All this talk of penalties and criminals apparently inspired Prez BOB to fine two residents of the head table 100 clams apiece - MARK BLOCK & HOMER NEWMAN for some undisclosed transgressions. DICK DAVIS was then asked if the picture of him in the Rotary booklet was indeed 40 years old - when he admitted it was maybe 25 years old, he, too, paid $100. The final lesson to be retained from today's meeting is that you probably would not be well advised to hire PP STEVE SHERER to program your VCR.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe