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Welfare Fraud Costs L.A. County Millions

July 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

Welfare recipients and their friends and relatives could be defrauding taxpayers of $500 million a year through the county's child-care programs, a grand jury report concludes.

According to the report, released Thursday, some county employees estimate that half of the $1.1 billion in funding for the CalWORKs program is lost to fraud because the Department of Public Social Services doesn't verify that welfare-to-work recipients meet the requirements for child-care payments.

"Widespread abuse ... has created a program culture that encourages fraud by parents, child-care providers and agency employees," the report says. Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who was formerly head deputy of the county's Welfare Fraud Division, urged county and state officials to act immediately to plug the holes that the report identified.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich will introduce a motion Wednesday seeking a report on how the social services department will ensure that welfare recipients' children are actually being cared for while the guardians are at work, said his spokesman, Tony Bell.

"This is an affront to the taxpayer," Bell said. "It's unconscionable and criminal."

Phil Ansell, program and policy director at the department, said the grand jury study shouldn't be used to draw conclusions about child-care fraud because it was not specifically a fraud study.

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