Exclusive Fraud Investigation Part 2

December 4, 2008 7:38:40 PM PST
Fresno prosecutors are threatening tougher punishments for people accused of fraud. They are cracking down on people abusing a program that is suppose to help the elderly and disabled. Tax payers fund a program called "In Home Support Services" also known as "IHSS". It is designed to help the elderly and disabled live at home instead of at expensive nursing facilities, but the Fresno County DA's office spotted a large number of frauds. Investigators are going undercover to find people faking their illnesses and in the long run help those who really need assistance.                 |   GO TO: Exclusive Fraud Investigation Part 1   |

Where you find 81-year-old Sue Allen usually her caretaker Hope is right behind her. Hope is paid by "IHSS" to help Sue manage around her home. Program administrators consider the pair legitimate users. Sue said, "Without her, I would have a lot of problems because there are things I can't do by myself." Hope said, "She couldn't go out and hire anybody to come in and do what I do. She couldn't afford it. She would be in a rest home."

People like Sue are motivating the DA's office to crack down on "IHSS" fraud. Investigators went undercover and followed people like 50-year-old Heather Edie. Investigators found Edie working on a truck more than a year ago. Prosecutor Mike Elder says Edie claimed she needed a wheelchair to get around. But look at the video. Elder says it is clear the woman lied about being disabled, "As can be seen from the video, she was changing the oil in the car and standing for long lengths of time with no crutches, no brace and no obvious ailments of any time."

Elder wants to combine tough prosecution and training for social workers to crack down on people like Edie. Elder says since she claimed to be severely disabled "IHSS" paid $1300 a month for a caretaker. Instead, the DA's office charged Edie and a friend Laura Marx with pocketing the money. We found both women at their Fresno home. Heather said, "I still, I limp. I'm still in pain. I have arthritis, osteoporosis." Reporter said, "Heather, when we saw the video, it doesn't appear that you are disabled?" Heather said, "Hahaha?I don't want to talk about this. It's ruined my life." Laura said, "Actually, it's ruined everybody's life in the house.

Edie and Marx declined to come outside to talk with us. A judge convicted Edie of grand theft. She spent time in jail and must repay the government $17,000. Marx was convicted of filing a false claim. Restitution was set at nearly $6,000.

Misleading is how the women described the undercover video. Edie said, "Some days I have bad days. It just so happen that the days I was outside, it was a good day."

Elder says every dollar used fraudulently takes away from people who really need the service like Sue Allen, "We are working with the IHSS department itself to try to do some preventative measures. We're training the social workers on identifying fraud."

Elder says in 2008 his team has recovered more than $82,000 in tax payer money by catching frauds.

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