Friday, April 24–OC Police Probe Reveals Sign Language Scheme

OCEAN CITY – A Delaware woman was charged this week with fraud after a six-month Ocean City Police Department investigation revealed she had bilked the resort out of an estimated $1,300 by submitting false requests for a sign language interpreter for town events and then providing the service herself.

The OCPD recently concluded a six-month fraud investigation involving a woman, later identified as Gail S. Garner, 51, of Greenwood, Del., who allegedly sent numerous fictitious requests to Ocean City’s Recreation and Parks Department requesting a sign language interpreter for special events. According to police, Garner allegedly made false requests to the town for a sign language interpreter for various special events for personal gain in an effort to secure work for herself.

Ocean City first hired Garner, a sign language interpreter, to perform sign language at special events back in 2000 when the town first started receiving such requests for special events. The town of Ocean City hired Garner and used her on several occasions to perform sign language at special events. Late last year, an OCPD investigation revealed Garner allegedly sent numerous fictitious requests to the Recreation and Parks Department for a sign language interpreter for special events.

Part of Garner’s scheme was to send fraudulent requests to the department via email posing as different persons requesting a sign language interpreter be provided for certain events. According to police, Garner accomplished her scheme by using various different names and email addresses. Investigators believe Garner was creating a false need for a sign language specialist for the purpose of defrauding the city by being financially compensated for her services.

During 2008, OCPD investigators determined the email requests received by the city were actually sent by Garner using various aliases and email addresses. The investigation revealed Garner had allegedly bilked the town of Ocean City out of an estimated $1,300.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws give deaf individuals or individuals with hearing disabilities the right to request a sign language interpreter for public special events such as stage performances, concerts and speeches, for example, and the governing jurisdiction has a responsibility to provide the service when and wherever possible. Garner allegedly utilized the ADA mandate for her own personal gain by making several such requests to the town of Ocean City.

Garner has been charged with nine counts of theft less than $500 and one count of felony theft over $500. During the investigation, OCPD detectives determined Garner has also been involved in providing sign language services to the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, Dover Downs, Midway Slots and the Delaware State Fair.

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