I-Team investigates county welfare fraud

More than 350K county residents on welfare in 2011

SAN DIEGO -  

Only 130 San Diego County residents were prosecuted last year for defrauding public assistance programs, far fewer than the national average for fraud, the 10News I-Team learned.

In 2011, half a billion dollars in welfare was given out to county residents, according to the government agency in charge of distributing that money.

More than 350,000 people received some kind of public assistance in San Diego County in 2011, including cash, food and medical benefits.

"It's all taxpayers' dollars," said Dale Fleming, a manager with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, the agency in charge of distributing welfare in the county.

She said 130 cases of fraud is low.

Nationally, the federal government estimates fraud represents one to two percent of welfare programs.

Fleming told the I-Team her agency tries to catch fraud before approving aid by seeing if an applicant's financial claims match their financial reality.

She said the agency, which has more than 900 eligibility workers, checks pay stubs, employment claims and tax returns. According to the county, the eligibility workers check for fraud before approving applicants for aid.

In 2011, Chinese national Wei Wang received thousands of dollars in public assistance, according to her ex-husband.

According to her 2011 tax return, she had an annual income of $13,558. County records showed Wang received $466 a month in cash assistance, $536 a month in food stamps and full medical benefits.

Wong's ex-husband, Greg Smart, is now responsible for paying back her public assistance as part of his alimony payments.

He said he only wants the county to investigate what he says is fraud.

"All they have to do is look at the record," Smart said.

According to bank statements linked to Wang, she had access to nearly $150,000. Rental contracts showed she earned $1,250 a month from renting rooms in her Bonita home.

A car title and a receipt showed she purchased $13,000 Toyota Corolla in December 2011.

"She's abusing the system and I'm the one left holding the bag," Smart said.

Wang would not agree to an interview, and Smart said she has left San Diego.

Since 10News interviewed Smart, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office inquired about his claims. In a letter, the district attorney asks for documentation to prove his ex-wife defrauded the public assistance system.

Stephen Robinson with the San Diego District Attorney's Economic Crimes Division said he couldn't comment on pending investigations or fraud referrals.

Robinson said his office is on pace to prosecute 150 people for defrauding the public assistance system in San Diego in 2012.

 

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