Pennsylvania’s Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) announced Tuesday that it had filed charges against 45 people for committing welfare fraud in the state in December 2019.
The total amount owed to the state from all the welfare fraud cases amounted to $240,125.40, according to the OSIG.
The OSIG also announced that 35 of those cases where individuals had been fraudulently receiving public assistance were classified as third-degree felonies.
If these people are convicted, they face up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000. In specific Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), cash assistance, or daycare fraud cases, these people can also lose eligibility for these benefits because they were allegedly obtained fraudulently.
The OSIG said it also filed ten separate misdemeanor counts of public benefits fraud.
The extent of welfare fraud is not just limited to Pennsylvania; it happens all around the country. A 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that $1 billion in SNAP benefits are trafficked in the U.S. annually. But experts say the real extent of the fraud is uncertain and could surpass that $1 billion figure.
Florida officials did a similar welfare fraud investigation in March 2018 and busted nearly 200 people on food stamp fraud charges while they carried out an undercover law enforcement investigation.