September 13, 2013

In some circles, it’s called “getting over on.” It means using a situation to your advantage, even if doing so is unethical.

In our city, getting over on the D.C. government — and, by extension, taxpayers — is a flourishing industry.

The scope is sickening.

In the past few months, about 30 people have been arrested or indicted or have pleaded guilty and gone to prison for getting over on the D.C. Department of Employment Services, the Department of Human Services, the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a city-owned hospital, the Office of Campaign Finance, D.C. Medicaid, the Corrections Department, a charter school and Medicare.

The amount of money embezzled, accepted in bribes, defrauded or spent on illegal political campaign contributions? Nearly $19 million.

Mind you, those figures are based on records of arrests and convictions since June. They don’t include efforts to get over on federal campaign finance laws. This week, a man pleaded guilty to federal charges of failing to report more than $600,000 that his New York company received to be spent on behalf of a 2008 presidential campaign. The source of the unreported funds is widely believed to be D.C. businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who is thought to figure prominently in the corruption of the District’s 2010 mayoral campaign.

All of this comes even after former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5)pleaded guilty to lining his pockets with more than $350,000 in taxpayer money meant to benefit children; former council chairman Kwame Brown (D) pleaded guilty to a felony bank fraud charge; and former council member Michael A. Brown (D-At Large) admitted embarking on an illegal bribery scheme.

Last week, 14 people from the Washington area were arrested and charged with obtaining more than $250,000 in unemployment benefitsfrom the Department of Employment Services while they were employed.

The Post reported that on the same day, Sept. 5, a city social services worker was charged with creating false identities that allowed her to steal more than $700,000 in cash, food stamps and health benefits.

On Aug. 20, a former employee of United Medical Center, the city-owned successor to Greater Southeast Community Hospital,pleaded guilty to a federal charge of embezzling more than $335,000 in overtime pay by manipulating the center’s time-keeping system.

On Aug. 13, a former aide to Vincent Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign pleaded guilty to making a false statement about his efforts to thwart a federal investigation involving the campaign; he admitted to giving about $8,000 to a potential witness to leave town.

August was a slow month. Not so July.

On July 31, a provider of home health-care services to Medicare and D.C. Medicaid beneficiaries was sentenced to eight months in prison for falsifying records in connection with a federal audit.

The day before, a federal judge entered a judgment of more than $17 million against a D.C. health-care provider for submitting false nuclear cardiology claims to federal and state health-care programs.The cardiologist was double-billing for tests and services.

On July 29, a former D.C. corrections officer was sentenced to three months in jail and six months of home detention for accepting $2,500 in bribes to bring contraband into the city jail.

On July 26, a former assistant treasurer to Gray’s mayoral campaign was sentenced to six months in prison for obstruction of justice and other charges stemming from his actions in the 2010 contest.

On July 19, the former chief of staff to Harry Thomas pleaded guilty to a criminal tax charge for her role in channeling $110,000 in youth grant funds to pay for an inaugural ball.

In June, corruption was bustin’ out all over.

A former temporary employee of a D.C. charter school pleaded guilty June 10 to a federal charge of stealing more than $75,000 from the school by issuing and cashing checks to fictitious vendors.

The same day, Michael Brown pleaded guilty to accepting $55,000 in bribes.

On June 14, another former corrections officer pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bribery: taking $400 to smuggle drugs into the D.C. jail.

On June 24, a Philadelphia business owner pleaded guilty to a federal charge of concealing the source of more than $125,000 in campaign contributions. He also admitted to causing at least $49,000 in D.C. political contributions to be made in his name, the names of his relatives and his company to, among others, candidates for mayor and the D.C. Council.

Within the same week, another D.C. business executive pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge involving more than $150,000 in campaign contributions.

On June 25, a father and son were indicted on federal charges in a bribery scheme to obtain taxicab business licenses.

On June 26, the executive director of a nonprofit pleaded guilty to wire fraud and admitted using more than $200,000 in city grants to youth programs for gambling and other personal expenses.

All since June 10. And those are just the ones we know about.

Getting over on the city is a virtually nonstop undertaking, arrests and convictions notwithstanding.

What makes this so disgusting is that too many elected officials responsible for overseeing government lack the moral authority to influence anybody or anything because of their own conduct.

To the contrary: Examples of getting over can be found at the top. The rest are just emulating their leaders.

Voters, it’s time to wake up.

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