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Joint Finance co-chair wants public assistance fraud unit

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The state Senate’s finance chair says Wisconsin needs a public assistance fraud control unit.

River Hills Republican Alberta Darling wants stronger enforcement, after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the state is not checking actual incomes of aid recipients who are self-employed, or who claim they’re broke.

In one case, a woman had $4 million in rental properties, but still managed to get $150,000 of tax-funded benefits for herself and her six kids.

Another public aid recipient is a tutor who lives in a $460,000 home in Mequon.

Monday, Darling started seeking co-sponsors for a bill to have the state Justice Department prosecute public assistance fraud cases.

Local district attorneys have that job now, and the Journal Sentinel says many don’t have the resources – so many offenders go scot-free.

Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma says the current laws are sufficient, but regulators need to do a better job of using various databases to share data. Vinehout says it’s a matter of officials not doing their jobs.

Assembly finance chair John Nygren of Marinette says he favors two pending bills – one that gives counties incentives to pursue public assistance fraud, and creating rewards for those who report it.