PERF is opening a $2 million customer service center to better assist the more t han 200,000 state and local government workers and retirees who are beneficiaries of the $10.5 billion retirement fund. The fund pays out $35 million in retirement benefits each month, according to an Indianapolis Star report.
The new center allows pensioners to walk in and meet with one of a dozen retirement counselors, who can help them make decisions about their pensions. They can also get help here if they are having trouble getting retirement benefits. To help finance the new center, PERF is selling the building next door, which has been appraised at $1.3 million.
In addition to the fresh coat of paint the service center got a new, stately logo with a Greek pillar standing by the words: “PERF Indiana.” They’ve adopted a motto: Funding your future. This was all part of a $95,000 public relations campaign kicked off by PERF to launch the new customer service center and redesign its logo and Internet site in an effort to revamp the fund’s image.
The road to recovery may be a long one. In the past couple of years, PERF has seen a former executive put behind bars and two former employees implicated in separate crimes . As December 2003 drew to a close, the fund’s former chief benefits officer (CBO), Walter Kevin Scott was sentenced to 10 years in prison for embezzling more than $600,000 from a former employer and misusing another person’s Social Security number (See Former PERF CBO Scott Gets 10 Years Behind Bars ).
Prior to Scott’s conviction and sentencing,Shaunna Stone pleaded guilty to a single count of bank fraud and 13 counts of misusing the Social Security numbers of other people. Additionally, Stone admitted stealing $22,586 and seven identities from the fund (See Former Indiana Pension Worker Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges ). Stone had previously worked in the same benefits department headed by Scott.
At around the same time, a federal indictment was handed down against another former PERF employee, James Spaulding, for allegedly leading an eight-person conspiracy to steal $226,873 from the fund, which ultimately led to his arrest in August (See Accused PERF Fraud Perpetrator Ordered To Jail Until Trial ). The theft was orchestrated during Spaulding’s temporary employment for the fund from January 2002 to July 2002, where the accusation of altering members’ accounts and causing checks to be cut from the fund in the names of his friends arose.