Armed with arrest warrants for 111 people accused of cheating the county out of $1.2 million in welfare payments, investigators captured 31 fugitives in a sweep early Thursday.
Arrests were expected to continue into the evening and for the next two days, a spokesman for the district attorney said.
Prosecutors said the suspects got welfare payments for non-existent children, made multiple claims, used false birth certificates, did not report earnings or hid assets.
16 Fake Children
One woman still being sought used four separate identities, claiming four children each, to cheat the system out of $74,636 over several years, said Lt. T. Ike Greene, chief of the district attorney’s welfare fraud unit. She pleaded guilty, he said, and skipped out before her sentencing in 1982.
“The problem of welfare fraud is a continuous problem,” Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner said. “It has always been with us and probably always will. The idea is to keep it as low as possible.”
This is the first time the district attorney’s office has made such a concerted effort to crack down on the backlog of welfare cheaters, spokesman Al Albergate said. Some cases go back to 1981, he said.
“These are people who have somehow slipped through the cracks, who have not shown up in court, or whatever, hoping we’d forget about them,” he said. “This effort, we hope, will clear out the backlog of those people who can reasonably be found. We’d like to get out the word. If they want to avoid being arrested, they can turn themselves in.”
Investigators Fan Out
Starting at 6 a.m., 10 teams of two investigators made about two dozen arrests before noon.
Greene said that when parents are arrested, they are given the opportunity to have their children picked up by relatives. Many people make bail the same day, he said. The county’s Children Services Department was alerted, Greene added, but by late afternoon no children had to be sent there.
Reiner said the “intensive effort” was aimed at deterring other welfare cheaters and bringing the fugitive ones to justice.
“They’ve stolen from the public . . . and the people who have real needs and are entitled to this money,” he said.