JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Department of Social Services' Investigative-Fraud Unit used various means of detection and investigation to pile up more than $500,000 in fraud recoveries and estimated savings in 2011.
DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper recently issued an informational report to the Board of Supervisors' Human Services Committee on the various methods DSS has used to catch fraud and detect overpayments.
"We start with investigations where we would see complaints," Cooper said.
She said the DSS Investigative-Fraud Unit completed 723 investigations in 2011, with 63 fraud cases referred to the office of District Attorney Louise Sira.
The amount of potential investigated fraud was listed as $232,089, with completed cases showing estimated savings of $207,907.
The DSS official said her department receives fraud complaints through different ways.
"People in the community call," Cooper said. "A lot of them we discover."
Another way to detect fraud, she said, is the Front End Detection System, also known as FEDS. She said this involves detecting fraud during the application period. Cooper said DSS is mandated to do the FEDS work, and if an application is inconsistent, DSS will automatically do a referral on the application.
"Generally, we try to hold up the case until the investigation is complete," Cooper said.
Fulton County DSS last year had 236 FEDS referrals, completed 225 investigations, with 22 percent positive results. The estimated 2011 savings through FEDS was $128,400.
Cooper said estimated savings resulted from the county not putting certain people on the public-assistance rolls.
County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said one part of the DSS fraud detection program involves pre-empting possible fraud, and the other basically detects a person already in the system committing fraud.
Other savings by the unit in 2011 included:
$78,861 through an eligibility verification review.
$33,565 through data matches.
$7,134 through a verified employment data computer check.
$89,802 through new-hire match reports.
$9,282 through the Automated Finger Imaging System.
The savings through data matches involved 90 matches, with 41 percent positive results.
Cooper said the verified employment data check involves unearthing potential fraud by the county working through the state's data base. She said the Automated Finger Imaging System is done with her department's temporary assistance cases.
"It all goes by program area," she said of the fraud detection process.
Cooper said Sira's office works "very well" with her department to determine actual welfare fraud in the county. For 2012, she said the county had about 340 referrals through March. She said DSS will probably receive about 1,000 referrals by the end of the year.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.