BROWN COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - The possible cases of welfare fraud under investigation in Brown County have jumped 25 percent in a year.
Authorities say it's part of a now two-year-old effort between the sheriff and human services departments to keep public assistance money in the right hands.
County officials have discovered over $1.2 million worth of taxpayer dollars being misused in two years.
“It's really important to uphold the integrity of the program,” Jenny Hoffman with the Brown County Human Services Department told FOX 11. “We want to make sure we are giving assistance to those that are in need.”
In Brown County about 25,000 receive taxpayer funded assistance for food, medical bills, child care and energy bills.
In 2011, one sheriff's deputy and about 30 case workers combined to investigate 333 possible cases of fraud. That number went up to 417 cases in 2012 when a second deputy was assigned to focus on the issue exclusively.
“They're extremely busy,” Brown County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Todd Delain tells FOX 11. “They get multiple tips everyday.”
Of the 333 cases investigated in 2011, only 54 resulted in either a criminal case or citation. In 2012, it was 61 of 417. However, with open cases that number could rise.
“Not everything does turn into fraud,” said Hoffman.
“They investigate every tip no matter how small it is, to the big, the biggest tips,” said Delain. “That is what takes so much time.”
Officials say when it comes to fraud, they have seen everything from people lying about who is living with them, to others claming food stamps of people who have passed away, or even selling food stamps for cash.
Anyone who might have information about fraud in Brown County is asked to call the fraud tip line at 448-6378.