Double-dipping? Man decries rougher justice for black workers

Butch Wells was bothered when he learned that a former employee of his may have been collecting unemployment benefits during the 18 months she earned a paycheck from him. What intensifies his anger is that three others charged with welfare fraud– all of them African American– are getting prosecuted while his ex-employee may be allowed to negotiate her way out of trouble.

Do some government agencies criminalize benefits fraud while others steer clear of the courts? It looks that way.

For example, in early January, three African-American women were arrested and charged with felony welfare fraud for allegedly collecting from Charlottesville's Social Services. That same week, Wells says he was contacted by a Virginia Employment Commission investigator looking into allegations of double dipping about one of his former employees, and the investigator said she'd be meeting with the former employee, who is white, to set up a repayment plan.

From April 2010 to November 2011, Wells, who owns a home health care business called Tassco II, says the ex-worker was paid more than $52,000. And according to his estimates, during that time, she could have reaped as much as $30,000 in unemployment benefits.

"The three arrested for welfare fraud are African American, and one they're negotiating with is white," says Wells. "It has a hint of impropriety."

Police say Kianna Taylor, 22, allegedly took more than $6,000, Selena Jones, 47, almost $9,000, and  Susan Taylor, 46, more than $13,000.

"We negotiate all the time," says Diane Kuknyo, director of Charlottsville Social Services, which filed the welfare fraud charges. "If the amount we're looking at is under $1,000, we'll attempt to negotiate. If it's more than $1,000, it goes to the commonwealth's attorney."

"We're not looking to give someone a criminal record," says Kuknyo. "But if it's systemic, we will go forward." She declined to comment specifically about the alleged welfare fraud case, other than to note, "It's not a racial thing. It just happened to be three African Americans on the police blotter."

It may be a matter of different agencies having different enforcement standards. At the Virginia Employment Commission, getting the money back appears to be the first order of business.

"Whenever we find out someone is collecting unemployment money and is employed, we contact the person and try to get it paid back or set up a payment schedule," says VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg.

If repayment isn't made, Fogg says, the cases could go to court. Declining to respond to the allegations about Wells' former employee, she says the VEC won't discuss specific cases. Nor would investigator Debra Brockwell, with whom Wells says he talked. She referred a reporter to media person Fogg.

In 2011, the VEC paid out $631 million in unemployment benefits, says Fogg, and sometimes, what looks like fraud might be just a misunderstanding.

That doesn't seem to be the case in Washington, D.C., where nearly 90 city workers were suspended February 6 and face firing and prosecution for allegedly collecting unemployment benefits at the same time they were receiving District of Columbia paychecks.

Wells' former employee, Louise Bodenstein, denies she received unemployment benefits while working.

"Those are false statements," she declares when contacted by the Hook. "[Wells] has some sort of ax to grind," she says.

"I have no ax to grind," says Wells. "I'm not trying to get the welfare ladies off. They stole my tax dollars. So did Louise Bodenstein."

Wells says he'd just like to see all alleged purloiners of taxpayer benefits treated the same. Otherwise, he points out, "What's to stop me from filing for unemployment?" 


Don't discriminate. Lock 'em all up!

Unemployment benefits are basically the state paying the disenfranchised to not revolt.

And the state using taxpayer dollars to exert control over the disenfranchised's voting preferences, etc.

I only stole a little bit so its ok. Funny how people rationalize poor behavior, especially when they get caught.

Perhaps it is Mr. Well's business that has contributed to this............does he pay a "living wage"?

Looks like Wells is looking for some free buzz for his business. If the white woman stole less than $1,000, then so be it. The system negotiates all the time in all matters criminal.
As for that silly last comment: "What's to stop me from filing for unemployment?" Well, again, if you file, make the fraud for less than $1,000 so you can negotiate. Is that worth it, Mr. Wells?
I see the prism through which Mr. Wells views the world.
R.I.P.: Johnny "Quaker" Oates

"Do some government agencies criminalize benefits fraud while others steer clear of the courts? It looks that way."


Common sense dictates that they should , There is a big difference between a "person" going to social services and affirmativiely LYING on applications to get money and someone who was on unemployment and failed to make certain timely notifications.

If there is a difference between two agencies enforcment procedures the leap to it being a racial issue is quite large and has no logical basis in fact.

But it certainly gives a lot of fodder for those who like to point out glaring examples of the race card being played without merit.

After reading this story again the "Hook" should investigate "The Hook" for writing stories in an attempt to inflame racial discourse amongst its readership.

This is a no brainer and Mr Wells should have been told that (politely) when he called.

This story does no service to anyone and is unfair to the agencies by making unfounded allegations. If Mr Wells can find where the city declined to prosecute whites for the same offense then that would be news. The city says that circumstance does not occur.

This city has enough real racial divides without red herrings being tossed into the mix.

"From April 2010 to November 2011, Wells, who owns a home health care business called Tassco II, says the ex-worker was paid more than $52,000. And according to his estimates, during that time, she could have reaped as much as $30,000 in unemployment benefits."

Big difference between $30,000 and $1,000, folks. Maybe Well's estimate was off by factor of 30, maybe there are some commenters trying to distort the facts so as to make the black people look like liars and the white people look like absent minded professors.

Or maybe it's the Commonwealth distorting the facts and hoping you'll take their word for it. Happens all the time.

"Perhaps it is Mr. Well's business that has contributed to this............does he pay a "living wage"?"

Plenty of people make do with a lot less than WHAT THE ARTICLE SAYS THE PERSON IN QUESTION WAS PAID. "From April 2010 to November 2011, Wells, who owns a home health care business called Tassco II, says the ex-worker was paid more than $52,000" Is that a living wage or not Skip?

Unemployment benefits over that period would have been far greater than $1000. In fact the article estimates them at $30,000. Even if that estimate is double the actual amount, then it is thousands of dollars greater than the amounts the other women were charged with taking. White collar crime by white people is still crime and ought to be prosecuted, not swept under the rug.

The fact that a state agency did not prosecute and the city agency did shows racism. Why? Because everyone knows whites can get unemployment because they work and blacks get welfare because they don't.
Back in the mid- eighties, I was in a jury pool for the city's prosecution of a white woman for welfare fraud. Since then, I guess whites joined the Welfare To Work program and got jobs so they could collect unemployment and blacks didn't. Clearly this is an example of racial division.

This is the kind of crap that will be brought before the city's proposed Human Rights Commission on Discrimination, Diversity and Racism. And I guarantee you that commission will take it up because of the reasons I gave above.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that the white lady makes 52 grand a year and it's worthwhile trying to negotiate a payback plan because she can actually afford to pay it back but the black folks, maybe those three don't make 52 grand a year and never gonna be able to pay it back. It might be more about money and practicality than race.

Unemployment benefits never were the political football that welfare benefits were in the 80s and 90s. To deny it was due to the fact that it was perceived that black people were more likely to receive welfare benefits is to deny reality.

So welfare "fraud" was criminalized whereas unemployment "mistakes" were not. Who can forget Ronald Reagan railing against "welfare queens"?

The same forces at work that result in decades of imprisonment for crack possession and months or years for powder cocaine of equivalent quantity. The same forces that result in the AP reporting that blacks are "looting" while whites are "finding" goods after Hurricaine Katrina.

AFTER THE FACT people are able to rationalize it all and find reasons why this racism makes sense. JWG shows this. Essentially he says, "whites make more money so therefore they shouldn't be imprisoned."


Don't expect it to change. Of course all these people are responsible for their actions. Unfortunately, if the people making the laws are racist, then racist results come out of equal application of the law.

Whoa, meanwhile, I realize it's routine around these parts to misconstrue everything I write about anything, but you've topped them all. Unemployment benefits may not used to have been a political football, but they sure are now. I'm not the one enacting, rationalizing, or enforcing the law either I'm just making the observation that race probably has nothing to do with this, it's probably about doing whatever is possible to recover the money without spending yet more tax dollars to imprison people.

b17- it was a facetious statement..........get it?

You see it in wingnut's comment. The welfare recipients are "lying" and the UEB recipient made a "mistake".

Sort of like how black people "loot" and white people "find".....

The same people would say, "of course black people should be locked up more, they're scarier!!!"

I guess unemployment benefits can be used as a political football but I think only by those who can't see the forest thru the trees.

The only two questions are
1) would they have prosecuted his employee if she was black?
2) Would the city have let the the women go if they were white?

Linking the two is racebaiting. Either the city is treating different races different or they are not.
Either the state unemployment office is tretaing different races different or they are not.

Would it be fair to check out the library and see if they forgive fines differenlyt depending on race?

Did the hook ask what race it was that referred the three black women over to the Commonwealth attorney? Did you ask if the protocols for referrals ever have exceptions?
If there are exceptoons what would that criteria be?

Also, what was the context of the fraud in all cases... It seems that The employee claimed innocence, perhaps letting her tell her side would have provided context.

I am a reader with inside knowledge of this situation, and I can say that The Hook, namely Lisa Provence, has completely failed to actually do any investigative journalism for this article.

1. Lisa takes the words of Butch Wells as truth. He came to her with this story, and she assumes what he is saying is true. She did no true investigation. When she contacted Louise, she did not receive any real answers...she got a sound bite. Wonderful he says/she says...but no actual investigation.

2. Butch Wells has been investigated several times for giving employees 1099s instead of W2s. Ms. Bodenstein was one of these "employees."

3. When an officer was sent to check on Ms. Bodenstein's employment status with Mr. Wells' company (Tempco, NOT Tasco II), he told the officer that she was not an employee, and that he was reimbursing her for services rendered. His tune changed LATER, when she found employment elsewhere and left Tempco. THIS is when he reported her to the IRS (NOT like the article states), after having KNOWINGLY paid her for 18 months without the proper tax forms. He was well aware of the situation, but will undoubtedly deny it to save face.

4. When Ms. Bodenstein left Tempco, having found gain, LEGAL (W2s and all) employment elsewhere, Mr. Wells not only contacted the IRS, but also The Hook, and is filing suit against Ms. Bodenstein for money that she supposedly owes him from when Tempco was started. No "ax [sic] to grind"? In addition to this, he has told former clients that she had been caught embezzling money from the company, which is unequivocally false. Why did he do this?

5. Tempco, which is now defunct, had a history of questionably legal practices. For example, as a home health care service, they often failed to provide background checks for their care providers, and in at least one case allowed a caregiver with no criminal background check (who incidentally DID have a criminal background) to give care to a client. The caregiver was also never given a W2, and instead a 1099.

I could go on, but frankly, the comment section of an online article is hardly the place, especially when the level of investigation indicates a complete ineptitude of the author. Perhaps instead of simply taking a person at his word, you should try to think of WHY this person may be bringing you this story. This is supposed to be a source of news, not a tabloid.

Identify yourself, please.

Or maybe you don't want to cause you're afraid someone might sue you. Understandable.

Maybe if you gave your name Lisa could give you a call and hash out what really happened in a forum broader than a comment board.

But she'd probably want to put your name in print.

as stated earlier

"Perhaps it is Mr. Well's business that has contributed to this"

This story just seems like another symptom of a more fundamental disease in this town. It seems to me that where there's smoke there is fire. Race and racial discrimination keep popping up all over the place, in this story, in the recent action by VO about discrimination in the management position is City Hall, the DT Mall story... ' That says to me the Dialogue on Race has be ineffectual in dealing with real issue, its just a lot of middle class people talking around real problems. Why doesn't the Hook cover that?

it also screams that this proposed Commission on Human Rights was an appropriate policy action and will have a lot of work to do and could be looking formally and with rigor into the causes of these recurring problems along with inequality in the judicial system, incarceration, employment, mental health, etc. Oh and it could be helping individuals with real discrimination complaints to get some real relief

The fact that thew City Council delayed its implementation to get more data or or know tow to the Chamber of Commerce or whatever just seems like a waste of time. How many more stories about racial discrimination do they have to read to face up to the fact that there are real problems of racism and discrimination in tis town and that something serious and concrete beyond words and more studies has to be done. The City Councilors are politicians not change agents. They know what needs to be done but don't have the mettle to do it.

I am struck by how the Hook can cover tis story but spent zero ink on the proposed Human Rights Commission that was about dealing with these kinds of problems at the systemic level. Maybe there is just more advertising in sensational stories like this one and the Systemic issues are just too complex for them (except for Dave McNair of course).

reeks of a romantic relationship gone bad. why else would these people fall on their own swords in an effort to slay the other? just sayin'

"I am struck by how the Hook can cover tis story but spent zero ink on the proposed Human Rights Commission that was about dealing with these kinds of problems at the systemic level."

DUDE, it is articles like this that claim discrimination without evidence that cause all the problems. The human rights commission would allow people with vendattas to make claims whenever they were fired and blame it on race gender religion whatever and the employers would have to prove that the person deserved to get fired.

This story needs way more investigation because right now it looks like he is just playing the race card with no evidence other than two unrelated agencies handling slightly similar issues differently. If either ageny would have handles it the same had the races been switched there is no issue about race to be made.


So the paper should be the venue for investigating this? I think those that proposed the Human Rights Commission saw it as a way to conduct those investigations in a more private way protecting those who are alleged to be discriminating from undue privacy violations and unfounded allegations until the case was founded by neutral investigators using formal procedures. The way it is now, maybe there is no discrimination, maybe there is but those who are being accused of discriminating are guilty by media report, that wouldn't be the case with a Human Rights Commission like the one in Prince William County. Just say'n.

Well this is an accusation against the government which is EXACTLY where it should be investigated.

The human rights commission wanted to stick its nose into private business where a fired employee could accuse the employer fo firing them for their race gender sexual preference. etc. The problem is it makes employers afraid to fire a lousy worker if they are in this group and it makes for a tough workplace. The other employees hate the boss and the bad employee and it causes all kinds of problems. if he does fire them and they compliain then some ACLU wannabe from the city subpenas all the employers records and even interview notes from other applicants and makes him explain WHY he fired someone or didn't hire them over someone else. Meanwhile the dirtbag is free to go to the Hook (or wherever )and start some BS. There are laws to protect against discrimination. We don't need more.


There is a difference between firing someone because they are a lousy employee and because they are not like you. The Commission processes are sensitive to that difference. If it turns out that someone has falsely accused someone of discrimination and they were really fired because they were lousy employees, the Commission investigator would find no cause for further action and the lousy employee would have no cause for action based on discrimination.

There are laws to protect against discrimination, the Commission would have just made those laws local and allowed people with real and actual discrimination complaints able to get some relief more quickly and with less coast than going to an attorney or the EEOC in DC. It would have also protected the employer from false accusations. We have to remember that not all accusations will be false. Some people do suffer from age, religion, gender, race discrimination. And in those cases, the Commission process would have made it less costly for the employer as well. If there was a Commission process people would not have to go to the press as a city investigator would be getting at the real issues, again protecting everybody. Once the Commission investigator finished the investigation and if there were no founded cause, it would be clear to everyone that the allegation had no merit.

A Commission appointed by the City Council would have no standing to send an investigator to Richmond to investigate a State agency such as VEC or the judicial branch of government. Think of it as a department of City government if that helps. How would a department of City government go the Richmond and investigate the state government. So your going to walk in and tell a state agency (VEC) that we want all your prosecution records because we hear (someone contacted The Hook) that you prosecute differently than the Charlottesville Social service department

@CP- Why would an employer first hire someone and then fire them because
they are not like you"? Makes no sense...

@CP- Where did you get this trust in Gov agencys. This group with their agenda are going to abuse their authority just like every government agency ever created.

I just want to appreciate all the comments that explore the issue beyond what was presented and note the questions still to be answered. It gives me hope for these interactive news forums.

If anyone has ever worked for a large company then they know that these large companies treat minorities, gays . blacks and disabled way different than the rest. They can be lousy employees and managment looks the other way because they don't want a lawsuit. You will notice that the lawsuits that are brought are almost always because some jerk in the warehouse shot off his mouth. not because an executive decided to get rid of the (insert minority here).

If someone is discriminated against then they can file a lawsuit. The city will just hire people who think that all minorites are "owed" something and harrass employers and landlords.

The other thing is that a lot of what people call "discrimination" is actually cultural differences that make it hard to find a good fit. Is it discrimination if you ask an employeee to pull up his pants? Is it discrimination if you ask him to pronounce the word ask as "ask"?
If a person comes to rent your apartment with his subwoofers shaking the windows and you know that your elderly renters will call you at all hours of the night to complain are you wrong to assume they might continue that if you rent to them? Suppose they come to fill out the application drunk and arguing? Unless you have the ability to prove that their race/gender/sexual preference wasn't the reasonyou turned them down these commisions harass you. Once you see what they did to your neighbor you learn not to cross them and start hiring unqualified people because you might be a "statistical" racist.

We have all walked into a business and wonder why the employer hasn't fired the person in front of us years ago.

That does not mean that whites are not bad employees but companies can at least fire them without a risk of a lawsuit.

The biggest lie in the world.....

" hi I'm from the Government and I am here to help"

"That does not mean that whites are not bad employees but companies can at least fire them without a risk of a lawsuit. "

That's really not true, just like most of what you are claiming.

The federal government did help investigate Lexis Nexis in C-ville. They were turned in to the feds (you can guess by who) because Lexis was paying no overtime for any editors for years and years stating they were salary and thus no overtime. The law specifically stated if you are putting in no creative effort of your own but just going by set rules, editors were to be paid overtime. After a year investigation by federal attorneys, Lexis volunteered and changed and paid some back wages. I think only attorneys could have done it. I have no confidence that a City department of non attorneys could have done anything against a major employer like the feds did against Lexis Nexis.