“Once we became aware of these allegations, it was imperative that the Sheriff's Office be allowed to conduct their investigation with no influence or interference from county staff."
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Walton County's human resources director has been charged with insurance fraud following an investigation by Walton County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Financial Services Bureau of Insurance Fraud.
The Sheriff's Office was notified Oct. 17 of potential insurance fraud involving an employee in the county's Human Resources Department. An investigation was launched and discrepancies were found in the insurance file of Human Resources Director Ella Mae Walters, 48, according to a press release from the Sheriff's Office.
Documents collected indicated Walters’ insurance coverage from United Concordia Dental listed a dependent, Christopher C. Byrd. Based on Byrd's date of birth and additional documents provided, Byrd did not qualify as a dependent.
With the assistance from the state Bureau of Insurance Fraud, a review of Walters, United Concordia's policy and claims filed under that policy was completed. Three claims totaling a little less than $300 had been filed for Byrd, the Sheriff's Office reported.
During the investigation, it was learned Byrd was employed as a courier by Walton County Commission from December 2014 to October 2015. However, he never had dental insurance through the county.
“As the human resources director for our county, Ella Mae Walters has extensive knowledge of employment benefits and has direct ability to approve and oversee all changes to insurance,” Sheriff Michael Adkinson said in the press release. “In saying that, Mrs. Walters knowingly and intentionally obtained a benefit for Christopher Byrd by falsifying an official record or official document. In discussions with county administration, it was clear that they shared our concerns and cooperated fully with the investigation.”
According to County Administrator Larry Jones, Walters will be placed on administrative leave until an internal review can be completed.
“Once we became aware of these allegations, it was imperative that the Sheriff’s Office be allowed to conduct their investigation with no influence or interference from county staff," Jones said in the release. "Now that the charges have been filed, we will place Mrs. Walters on administrative leave and perform an internal review to determine the most appropriate course of action,” Jones said.
Walters turned herself in to the Okaloosa County jail Friday morning and was charged with official misconduct, false and fraudulent insurance claims, and falsifying records. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible.