An Idaho woman is accused of fraudulently taking more than $35,000 worth of food stamp and Medicaid benefits for kids who were not under her care for four years.
Authorities charged Melissa R. McAtee, 31, with one count of public assistance fraud for allegedly obtaining public assistance benefits totaling $35,632.67 unlawfully, the Lewiston Tribune reported.
Court documents state that Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare started investigating McAtee in August 2016 when the father of one of her kids discovered she had been receiving welfare benefits in her son’s name.
Between November 2012 and October 2016, McAtee allegedly collected $19,615 in food stamps listing her two sons as the ones receiving the benefits. Reports also state that she received $16,017.67 in Medicaid benefits between August 2012 and August 2016.
The father promptly notified the state’s Department of Health and Welfare fraud unit, which opened up the investigation into McAtee’s benefit usage, KLEW reported.
An investigator later confirmed that McAtee did not have custody of those children at the time she received benefits and did not qualify to receive public assistance. The department then requested prosecutors charge her accordingly.
Authorities arrested McAtee, and a judge set McAtee’s bond at $10,000 on Tuesday. McAtee is due back in court April 3.
The state’s welfare fraud department is requesting that McAtee pay back $35,632.67 in welfare benefits if convicted and asks that the state bar her from receiving food stamps until she pays back the money.
Instances of food stamp fraud in the U.S. are quite commonplace.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from 2019 found that criminals were responsible for trafficking at least $1 billion in food stamp benefits. But some experts say there is more welfare fraud in this country than what the reports state.
Kristina Rasmussen, the vice president of federal affairs for the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), told Breitbart News in February that the amount of fraud in the U.S. “could be a lot higher” than the GAO estimates.
“Food stamp criminals can be a creative bunch and they are always coming up with new schemes once the authorities catch on to one, but generally speaking, there are two big buckets of fraud: Its people who are getting access to the program who shouldn’t be getting access … or folks who are accessing the program who really aren’t eligible,” Rasmussen said.