It’s the first program of its kind in the nation. Crime Stoppers will hand out cash rewards for tips that lead to people who are getting public assistance illegally. The partnership between Crime Stoppers, the Harris County District Attorney’s office and several government assistance agencies is meant to crack down on widespread welfare fraud in Harris County. District Attorney Pat Lykos says it’s about more than just the actual fraud.
“It’s not just the theft and the deprivation of the people who are truly in need and the cheating of the taxpayers, it’s where this money goes and how it goes into organized criminal activity. And so you have this anti-social behavior that’s being financed with our tax dollars.”
The fraud usually involves illegal housing, social security, food stamp and Medicaid benefits. Robert Feldt leads local investigations into social security fraud.
“Disability is an area where there’s a great deal of fraud in which individuals become eligible for disability benefits and then will conceal information from the Social Security Administration. At a later date they may go back to work and conceal that information from social security by working under another social security number or under the table. So that’s an area where there’s a great deal of fraud that we spend most of our resources working.”
Local officials estimate millions of dollars in fraudulent welfare benefits is being handed out in Harris County. That Crime Stoppers number is 713-222-TIPS.