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Last updated: April 02. 2013 9:34PM - 634 Views
NODYIA FEDRICK, Times Leader Intern



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After tracking suspicious use and data analysis, the state conducted its first investigation of out-of-state Access Card fraud. The results rendered 653 cases statewide, 16 in Luzerne County and savings of nearly $1 million in Pennsylvania taxpayers’ money.
Each individual has been removed from the program.
The state Department of Public Welfare then turned suspected violators in to the Office of Inspector General to determine an outcome for their alleged scams.
As of yet, no one has been criminally charged, spokeswoman Melissa Yerges of the Inspector General’s Office said Wednesday.
Beginning in February, public welfare began a monthly residency review of those who completed electronic benefit transactions in states non-contiguous to Pennsylvania.
While using Access Cards out of state is not illegal, frequent use was a red flag that users were no longer Pennsylvania residents.
The next step is to investigate cards being used in New York and New Jersey for fraud.
Electronic cards are the primary method used to issue public assistance benefits to eligible Pennsylvania residents. These benefits range from cash assistance, to supplemental nutrition (food stamps) and medical assistance.
To obtain benefits, as mandated by state and federal law, an applicant must provide documentation proving lawful U.S. citizenship through a birth certificate, a driver’s license or a Social Security number.
The department then checks client information against in-state, out-of-state and national databases.
The public welfare analysis found 76 percent of the people fraudulently collecting Pennsylvania benefits while living in another state were using the food stamp program. Additionally, 24 percent of those living outside Pennsylvania were collecting other types of benefits such as cash assistance, medical assistance or a combination of the three.
“The department’s review of out-of-state welfare spending will soon expand to neighboring states and we will conduct targeted reviews anywhere we see an inconsistency. We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to rooting out fraud, waste and abuse,” said Gary D. Alexander, secretary of the Department of Public Welfare.
This border state review could net more fraudulent cases locally, official said.

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