Commute ends at home

Published 12:15 am Saturday, March 11, 2006

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
EDWARDSBURG – With five hours in his daily commute, former Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter has learned to make use of this time. Whether he is listening to a book on tape, talking on his cell about a child's problem or keeping in touch with family members, Teter is still glad to come home to Edwardsburg at the end of the day.
Teter spoke of his duties as an assistant in the Attorney General's office in Lansing at the annual Edwardsburg Area Chamber of Commerce dinner last Thursday evening.
Cass was only the second county in the state to go after collecting and prosecuting those behind in child support, even going into Elkhart, South Bend and Mishawka, Ind. to make them pay for dependents in Michigan.
Noticed by the State Attorney General Michael Cox for his success, he went to Lansing in 2003 to work in the state's child support division which had a 3.6 million dollar budget.
"There were 450 letters when I got there," Teter said. Not only did he answer requests for help receiving support due, he tackled others who should have been paying, even reaching as far as Hollywood, Calif. to a fighter who had won a title.
"It's been kind of fun," Teter said.
In the state 92 billion is owed, with 7.5 million from Cass County alone, owed to the state and 10.2 to parents, he said.
"For most it was not they couldn't pay – they chose not to pay," Teter said.
"I left here with a mission," he added.
Teter told the chamber members and guests how he went after a dentist in Detroit, who had two practices, an airplane and three luxury cars, yet never saw his 16-year-old child or paid support.
Since one practice was in Canada, they worried he might take flight. But the dentist was arrested and his $345,000 in arrears was paid. The A student is now assured of a college and even graduate school education.
"It was an amazing thing. It is not everyday you can do that," Teter said.
"That's the cool part. Some days I would do that for free," he added. But unfortunately for his wife, Susan and his three children, he found he was "living in my office."
Teter chose to continue to live about five miles from Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, where the dinner was held.
Though he was extremely successful, he didn't want to be accused of neglecting Ashli, now 14; Austin, 12 and Zachary, 10.
He was worried about the "irony of becoming an absentee father."
In December of 2004, he moved to the heath care fraud division.
There he is concerned with Medicaid fraud, abuse of the elderly and identity theft.
"Medicaid fraud is the largest portion of the state's budget," he added.
"A small percentage of crooks have Dr. in front of their name, with patients they don't see," he said, receiving "our tax dollars, instead of those who need it."
Billings for patients who have died, double billing and other means of fraud cost us all.
He also looks into the conditions of the nursing homes in the state.
Teter praised our own Cass County Medical Care Facility as being one of the best. "It is a model facility," he said. "On the other end, are warehouses where people go to die like a cattle stockyard.
He has found how important visits are to the people in these homes. "When no one visits, it really makes a difference," he said, not only for the health of the patients, but how they are treated by the staff and the conditions in the nursing home.
One case they prosecuted was a care worker who "forgot" to change an oxygen tank and the patient died. They found and arrested the 50-year-old living in Florida.
"That's the kind of cases I'm doing," he said. "These are somebody's grandparents. That generation worked harder than any. My grandfather picked blueberries for 10 cents an hour," he said.
Teter also gave advice on how to protect against identity theft.
"It's criminal activity." They may not have used a gun, but "they stole everything," he said of another example of nine people losing their life's savings in a scam. So far, they have gotten back $260,000 of a million lost.
"If it sounds too good to be true – it is," he advised.
He spoke of the "travelers" who may be operating in the county as spring comes, offering driveway repairs, roof repairs and painting of homes, all without any assurance the work will be worth the price. "They watch to see which homes have toys. They check for age," he added, targeting the elderly.
Though he talked about strangers attempting to scam, 66 percent is done by family members, he said. Telling how a son chained his mother to the bed, he added, "it's sad, but true.
"The good news is I have yet to find a community that pulls together better than ours," he said.
Teter has no plans to move to Lansing and instead drives his hybrid car back and forth. "Cass County will always be my home," Teter said.
Elected as directors of the Edwardsburg Area Chamber of Commerce at the dinner were David Ball, Marcia Steffens, Robin English, Barbara Wright, Chris Marbach, Eileen Toney and Harry Stemple. Officers will be elected at a meeting of the directors.
Those interested in joining may attend a meeting at noon in the chamber offices in the basement of the G.W. Jones Bank, the first Thursday of the month.