Growing number of government workers commit welfare fraud

first_img“She had these two identities going and LACERA and the welfare department didn’t know about it.” In June, Brown pleaded guilty to welfare fraud, was sentenced to 16 months in prison and ordered to pay $89,522 in restitution, according to court records. And she is one of a growing number of government and private sector workers who are using similar schemes to fraudulently collect welfare benefits, Baker said. The District Attorney’s Office recently prosecuted some U.S. Postal Service employees who were fraudulently collecting welfare benefits while working for the government. “We’ve found that in all our public benefit systems that people are establishing two identities to fraudulently collect benefits,” Baker said. “In some cases, they are collecting Supplemental Security Income benefits under one identity and also receiving In-Home Supportive Services benefits as being disabled. “In the Section 8 program, a person might be receiving Section 8 benefits and welfare under one identity, and under another identity they own the home in which they are living and are being paid by Section 8, too. These double-identity schemes in Los Angeles County are a major problem. And they are often only caught by accident.” Brown’s case is one of several detailed in Auditor-Controller Tyler McCauley’s Fraud Hotline report released this week, showing fraud investigations in county government rose 19 percent over the prior six-month period. The number of new investigations rose from 281 in the six-month period ended March 31 to 348 in the six-month period ended Sept. 30. The report included an unusually large number of cases with high dollar losses. Taxpayer losses in the most recent period totaled $616,684, up from $239,475 in the prior period. Other cases included: A Los Angeles County Probation Department employee allegedly forged documents and fraudulently collected more than $130,000 in death benefits, even though her husband is still alive. Prosecution is pending. A Department of Health Services manager allegedly approved an employee’s time cards for hours he did not work, resulting in $118,471 in overpayments over three years. The employee resigned and disciplinary action is pending against the manager. A Department of Mental Health provider allegedly submitted improper claims and falsified supporting documents resulting in $223,000 in unsupported billings for client counseling sessions. The case was referred to the district attorney for review.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! In 1988, Rita Brown started working as a retirement benefit specialist for Los Angeles County, using her Social Security number and California driver license to obtain the post. But using a second Social Security number and a second California driver license in the name of Rita Kay Fellows, she then began collecting welfare benefits from the county Department of Public Social Services. Over the next 19 years, the Pasadena resident lived a double-identity – working for the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, an agency that administers $40 billion in pension funds, and collecting welfare benefits under an alias until she was finally caught, according to court records and interviews with officials. “She had a double identity going,” said James Baker, assistant head deputy district attorney in the Welfare Fraud Division. “Under one identity, she was a LACERA employee and under another identity she was collecting welfare for years and years. last_img read more