Local News

Welfare Fraud On Rise In Wake County

Posted May 6, 2004 9:11 a.m. EDT

— With the economy still in a slump and many people without jobs, some are turning to public assistance to get by. As investigators in Wake County found out, many are getting that assistance illegally.

Wake County welfare fraud investigator Brian Gunter says the number of people applying for aid is up. So is the number of people committing welfare fraud in the county.

Wake County's 13 welfare fraud investigators see about 120 cases a month and say their case load is on the rise.

Of the nearly 1,500 cases they take on every year, they say most come from people who lie repeatedly to qualify for benefits that include food stamps, welfare, and Medicaid.

"Most of the investigations involve the composition of the household, so the amount of aid that any household is eligible for depends on the income for that household,' Gunter said.

Investigators are seeing more and more fraud from people who get financial help with day care if they work fulltime.

"If a person loses their job, they're really tempted not to report that because day care is so important," Gunter said.

Gunter says the victims are the people who need help the most.

"The victims are the people who should be receiving food assistance, should have funds available for Medicaid and health care. If that money and those supports are taken by people who aren't eligible for them, then they can't make use of them," he said.

Even though welfare fraud is a felony, most offenders never see jail time. Investigators say most of the time they are able to work out a payment plan.

Because investigators can tap into tax refunds, this is the time of year they get a lot of the stolen money back.