Ombudsman for West Virginia Legal Services Affiliate Sentenced

Legal Services Corp. logoJanel Phillips did a lot of job-related traveling. At least that’s what her time sheets said. The reality was different. As a result, she’ll have to serve some prison time. On July 2, Phillips, an ombudsman for Legal Aid of West Virginia, a Legal Services Corp.-affiliated nonprofit group, received a 10-month sentence in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia for obtaining false reimbursements. The sentence will consist of five months each in the form of prison time and home detention. She also will have to make $85,327.74 in restitution. Phillips pled guilty on March 27.

Federal prosecutors had alleged that Phillips, now 45 and a resident of Belington, W.Va., during January 2007-May 2010 submitted false mileage claims and time sheets to obtain more than $90,000 from the federally-funded Long-Term Care Ombudsman Fund in connection with her work for Legal Aid of West Virginia. She was one of nine regional managers of the fund. The guilty plea and sentence follow a joint investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Legal Services Corp.’s Office of Inspector General.