EC Social Services’ Special Investigations Division Saves Millions, Recovers Overpayments
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today noted that 2013 was a highly successful year for the Erie County Department of Social Services’ Special Investigations Division (“SID”), which is mandated by New York State law to investigate and prosecute fraud involving social service programs. From January - November 2013, the Erie County SID had completed over 2,100 investigations, identified over $3.9 million in fraud, and had collected over $6.6 million in funds.
“The work of the Special Investigations Division is critical not only to eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in the system, but also to keeping the system healthy and functioning for those who truly need it,” said Poloncarz. “As Comptroller I spoke about the need to fight this waste, and since becoming County Executive we have had a special focus on it. Defrauding the system is a crime against all of us, and the perpetrators will be caught and prosecuted.”
In 2013 the Special Investigations Division completed the following:
- 2,134 investigations completed
- 3,212 overgrants calculated
- $3,953, 603 in fraud packages completed
- $6,661,604 in funds collected
- 40 cases referred to and prosecuted by the Erie County District Attorney
SID conducts investigations for Temporary Assistance, Food Stamps, Day Care, and Medicaid. The investigations include field work, document verification, collateral contacts and assets or resource reviews. Once fraud is determined, budgets are prepared and computed to determine overpayment of funds or over issuance of Food Stamps.
SID then prepares cases for civil recovery and fraud packages for collection or prosecution. Investigators provide oral and/or written testimony in criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings against persons accused of fraudulently receiving public assistance benefits. SID is also charged with the recovery of overpayments via recoupment, payment arrangements, judgments, or income execution.
The Special Investigations Division also performs other money-saving functions through cost avoidance, including:
- Burials - By mandate, counties assist in the burial of the indigent and unclaimed. In addition to assisting in the burial, the unit locates assets that could be used instead of county funds. Searches are also performed for the unclaimed to secure resources for burials.
- Criminal Justice and Public Assistance Reporting Information System Matches (PARIS) - Searches are performed to insure that public assistance cases are closed for those individuals who become incarcerated or deemed to be receiving assistance in another state, thus saving county funds.
- SSI Reconciliation -When individuals become eligible for Social Security, calculations are performed to secure any public funds expended from lump sums, offsetting costs expended.
How to report suspected Welfare fraud:
To report a suspected Welfare Fraud, you can contact SID at the listings below. Welfare fraud includes making false or misleading statements and/or concealing information in order to receive or continue to receive benefits in program areas one would otherwise not be entitled to.
- By telephone: Fraud Hot Line  858-1886
- By Fax:  858-1769
- By Email: FraudComplaint@erie.gov
- On the Erie County Department of Social Services website
- Postal mail: ECDSS, Special Investigations Division, 95 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York 14202
WELFARE FRAUD: PREVENTION, PROSECUTION AND RECOVERY
Welfare Fraud is any intentional action which results in a recipient receiving benefits or payments to which they are not entitled. In an effort to prevent fraud, the Front End Detection [FEDS] Unit conducts investigations on applicants for temporary [public] assistance. These investigations include a number of verification activities, including visits to the applicant's home. They are designed to verify the basic facts on the application.
Rectifying welfare fraud after it's occurred involves the use of 3 strategies: criminal prosecution, administrative sanctions and restitution. If fraud is alleged after a case has been opened, a team of investigators work to detect the fraud and ultimately prosecute civilly or criminally those individuals who have defrauded the public benefit system. Any and all overextended benefits issued to ineligible recipients (intentionally or unintentionally) are pursued for collection via grant reduction, recoupment, judgments and income executions within the parameters of Social Service regulations and NYS law.