"In Home Support Services" is a large taxpayer funded program. It helps the elderly and disabled live in their homes by paying for aides and nurses. Fresno County is receiving the most money in the Valley to fight fraud. But in a time of severe budget cuts- Fresno's district attorney just hopes to use the money to keep her ground breaking program running.
This 55-year-old woman is an example of how the DA's office busted a fraud. Ruzanna Shaboyan claimed to be totally disabled. But undercover investigators with Fresno County's District Attorneys office photographed Shaboyan having a yard sale, going grocery shopping, closing a garage door and cleaning her own home. She received IHSS benefits and was later convicted of defrauding the system. After Action News ran this story last year, state leaders called District Attorney Elizabeth Egan. Egan said, "We have shown them how much money has been lost to fraud. We were in the Governors office. They called us. They asked us to come up and asked us to talk about our program."
Egan's program inspired the state to take action. On Monday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced $26-million to fight IHSS fraud all across the state. Schwarzenegger said, "Some providers are using fictional social security numbers to obtain more than 1 pay check. Some continue to be paid after the person they are caring for has been hospitalized, go to a nursing home or died."
Egan commits one prosecutor and two investigators to battle IHSS fraud. If budgets weren't so tight, Egan probably would consider expanding her anti-fraud team. Instead- she plans to use the new funding just to keep her team intact Egan said, "In this day of budget cuts, we also know tax revenues are down an we are probably looking at another budget cut mid year. We are down 64 positions, not having to fill some, not replacing people who left." The governor hopes-spending money now leads to busting more frauds and saving the state more money.
About 12,000 Fresno County residents use "IHSS". Of those, up to 10-percent of the participants could be abusing the program.