Prepare to Be Disgusted as a Taxpayer


Have You Wondered Where Our Tax Money Is Going?

I have, because not much of it seems to be coming my way.

Authorities in Florida had the same feeling, and for the past two years, they have been running a sting that is starting to pay off now. The sting is expected to result in more than 60 arrests, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Florida welfare recipients were busted for a fraudulent $2.8 million operation.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told local television station WPTV, “We aren’t going to bark a lot, but we are going to bite and bite hard, I’m going to bite them in the butt as far as I can and take everything that we got from them to teach them a lesson that this is not going to be tolerated.”

According to Sheriff Bradshaw, sixty-one arrest warrants were issued as of Monday, and 21 people have been arrested on federal charges so far. There may be more.

Authorities began “Operation Money Tree” after a grandmother called to report that the father of her granddaughter traded his electronic food stamp card for money, when he should have been using it to buy groceries for her granddaughter.

This $2.8 million amount sounds like a lot of money – and it is – but it is a drop in the ocean compared to what is really going on. Almost nine months ago, Florida welfare officials announced a crackdown on fraud in the state. What caused them to do that was the realization that $1.35 billion of taxpayer money was lost to fraud last year, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

The Florida welfare agency processes most of the applications for food stamps, cash to needy families, and Medicaid benefits. About 90 percent of the state’s welfare recipients complete their benefit applications online.

The Florida Department of Children and Families has a video about catching criminals who game the system. The video was published after they publicly reported the huge losses, but only 3,500 people have watched it. Either the criminals did not watch it or they didn’t think they would get caught. It seems they should have watched it.

Florida is the first state to implement aggressive front-end fraud prevention technology to ensure benefits go to Floridians who are in need.

DCF has implemented customer authentication technology, streamlined fraud reporting to law enforcement. They monitor social media to find new data, and issue warnings about the penalties for committing fraud. Plus, they track replacement card requests and use that data to assess potential fraudulent activity. They also use asset verification technology and augment their data with inmate and employment databases.

Florida legislators also made changes to the law that were expected to save $60 million each year, according to the report.

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins told the Orlando Sentinel, “Florida ranks No. 1 in the nation for identity theft, and for far too long, criminals have been gaming our systems and stealing from taxpayers and Floridians who are truly in need. Implementing technology that has been successfully used in the private sector will allow us to catch more of these cheats on the front end.”

Now you know where big chunks of your tax dollars have been going – and that is just Florida.

I expect welfare fraud and other government waste will be huge issues in the 2014 midterm elections.

Dwight L. Schwab Jr. is a moderate conservative who looks at all sides of a story, then speaks his mind. His BS in journalism from University of Oregon, with minors in political science and American history stands him in good stead for his writing.

Dwight has 30 years in the publishing industry, including ABC/Cap Cities and International Thomson. A native of Portland, Oregon, and now a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Subscribe to Dwight L. Schwab Jr., Writer by Email