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Social services aims to curb fraud cases

FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County Department of Social Services cracked down on fraud cases in 2017.

Social Services Director DeAnna Cheatham said the department had 125 fraud referrals totaling over $90,000 last year. Three Circuit Court indictments handed up this month involved accusations of welfare fraud, which makes for a total of seven such cases  in pending litigation.

John D. Creekmore Jr., 58, of Fort Valley, was indicted on two felony counts of knowingly making a false welfare application or falsely swearing on a welfare application and one felony count of fraudulently obtaining welfare assistance. He was arrested Feb. 13.

Jacqueline Elaine Carter, of an unknown age and address, was indicted on five felony counts of making a false welfare application or falsely swearing on a welfare application and one felony of fraudulently obtaining welfare assistance. A warrant for her arrest was issued Feb. 5.

Jesse R. Price, of an unknown age and address, was indicted on one felony count of making a false welfare application or falsely swearing on a welfare application and one felony count of fraudulently obtaining welfare assistance. A warrant for his arrest was issued Feb. 5.

Cheatham explained that of the 125 fraud referrals last year, not all included situations in which people intended to defraud Social Services. Referrals sometimes involve the department issuing more assistance than necessary, which the recipient has to pay back. The department only attempts to prosecute cases involving $1,000 or more.

Four of the pending seven cases involve amounts between $1,000 and $,4,000, and three involve amounts over $10,000.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton could not go into detail regarding the three February indictments, but noted that the Creekmore and Carter cases involve amounts “well in excess” of $1,000. Price’s case involves about $1,000.

While Cheatham said she could not discuss pending litigation, she noted that such large amounts go beyond fraudulent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cases. For example, offenders are accountable for past hospital bills in fraudulent Medicaid cases.

The new activity in prosecuting fraud cases in Warren County may be because the department was without a fraud investigator from October 2016 to February 2017. When Desiree Minter became the fraud investigator in February 2017, Cheatham said a new online state training system was undergoing changes. Therefore, the department could not handle fraud cases until June.

Surrounding counties’ social services departments did not experience as much fraud as Warren County, but they did not have periods without investigators.

Amy Simmons, City of Winchester communications director, said three Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cases totaling $13,998 were investigated in 2017. The cases did not go to court and were handled with the administrative disqualification hearing process.

“Intentional program violations are not a problem for our agency. The majority of the established claims are as a result of unintentional household errors,” Simmons said.

Shenandoah County Social Services Director Tammy Green said her department had no SNAP fraud cases and one Medicaid case.

Cheatham said fraudulent activity in Warren County may be curbed if word of the fraud investigator circulates, but that past incidents may still be discovered.

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