HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The state’s Inspector General’s Office says it is their job to ensure the integrity of the welfare system and to let people know that there are serious consequences for committing fraud.
In the first quarter of 2019, the office says those charged with welfare fraud owe more than $886,000.
“Every time we take action against somebody in welfare fraud actions, that is money that can be then used as we get the restitution back for people who truly need it,” Deputy State Inspector General Lucas Miller said.
Miller says the recent batch of 178 people charged is about average for what the office deals with.
“It’s literally taking from people and from children who might need those benefits desperately,” he said.
Investigators handle fraud cases from cash assistance, SNAP benefits, medical assistance, and subsidized daycare.
“We conduct well over 30,000 investigations per year, per fiscal year, so that requires a lot of manpower and womanpower,” said Miller.
That’s why state Sen. Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York) is introducing a bill to increase welfare fraud investigators by 50%.
“When you think about the fact that we will probably appropriate between federal and state subsidies, about close to $40 billion this year, we could save the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and our country a lot of money,” Regan said.
When it comes to cracking down, investigators rely a lot of tips.
“Over 8,000 last year alone through our 800 tip line,” said Miller.
Miller says people reporting fraud is a key step to preventing more, and he also welcomes the idea of more people on his team.
Of the 178 people charged, nearly 90 face felonies. If convicted, those people face a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.