May is Public Assistance Fraud Awareness Month in Ohio, and the Fayette County Department of Job and Family Services is spreading the word that “Fraud Costs All of Us.”
Fayette County Department of Job and Family Services employs a full-time trained fraud and benefit recovery investigator. The investigator works with local and state agencies including law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of fraud activities.
Some types of investigative techniques used are undercover surveillance, grocery store video and reports received from community residents. There are many resources available that the agency can utilize in the fight against fraud. Individuals found to be committing fraud are removed from the program, must repay any improperly obtained benefits, and may face criminal charges and jail time.
In 2016, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services disbursed about $2.4 billion in SNAP food assistance, $237 million in Ohio Works First cash assistance and $617 million in child care provider subsidies. Individuals who mislead caseworkers or lie on an application for benefits account for a very small percentage of the funding disbursed, but the department takes even the smallest fraud cases very seriously.
In 2016, Fayette County DJFS investigated over 242 fraud complaints (employment, household composition, trafficking). A total of eight cases were referred for criminal action. Those cases resulted in $47,000 being received by individuals fraudulently. Twenty-four individuals agreed to accept the Intentional Program Violation, which removed them from food assistance benefits. The agency has collected $112,285 worth of benefits received fraudulently or in error in cash assistance, food stamp, Medicaid and child care.
Applicants and recipients of public assistance programs are encouraged to report their circumstances accurately and timely in order to avoid facing potential criminal charges, program disqualification and repayment of benefits issued improperly. Residents of Fayette County may report suspected public assistance fraud by calling the Fayette County Department of Job and Family Services at 740-335-0350 ext. 226 or by going to jfs.ohio.gov/fraud.