ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Investigators at Rockingham County’s Department of Social Services have recovered more than a quarter of a million dollars from cases prosecuted for public assistance fraud.
"They're claiming people are in the house that aren't living there,” said Detective Michael Smith an investigator with DSS’ Program Integrity Unit.
Since February 2012, the unit has recovered $289,487 from many claiming food stamp, Medicaid, Work First and other public assistance benefits that they don’t qualify for.
Since February 2013, the unit has issued 47 warrants.
"It's not right,” said Debbie McGuire, director of Rockingham County’s DSS. “It's a crime, and when we detect it, then we will pursue it."
Investigators say their biggest tips come from the public, mainly neighbors.
"We get a lot of calls a week,” Smith said. “Anywhere from 15, 20 calls, sometimes more."
The calls often describe expensive homes or cars of those claiming to need help.
"This person drives this kind of car and I know they're on food stamps," Smith said, giving examples of the kinds of tips that he gets.
"Welfare fraud is not OK,” McGuire said. “It is a crime.”
A crime that may not only result in jail time but in having to pay back all the money from benefits falsely claimed.
"You'll get caught,” Smith said. “It's not worth it."