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BY SUSAN USHEK
Wayne Campbell describes his job as fraud investigator
for the Brunswick County Department of
Social Services as "busy, but profitable."
Busy, yes. His one-man office is charged with investigating
charger, of alleged client abuse of all social
sen-ices programs. These include Medicaid, Aid to
Families With Dependent Children, Food Stamps,
Special Sendees and Low Income Energy assistance.
An aid recipient may have forgotten?or deliberately
failed?to report an increase in household income or a
decline in family size. Both affect the amount of
assistance a family may receive.
Profitable, yes?for the taxpayers, says Campbell.
In his work. Campbell emphasizes repayment of
money due the agency, not prosecution. But occasionally
it takes one to get the other; the department has and will
go to court to collect the money due it.
"Welfare fraud is probably a little more widespread
than I had thought," Campbell said after eight weeks on
the job. "But there's also a lot of erroneous allegations
Often, he said, people call and report that someone is
getting benefits they don't qualify for.
"At the time the alleged fraud took place," he said,
"it often turns out the people were not on assistance then
and were therefore not violating welfare fraud statutes."
While local fraud cases appear to be "pretty evenly
divided" between Medicaid, AFDC and Food Stamp programs,
Campbell said, the commonest cause tends to be
failure to accurately report household income.
In Brunswick County, where seasonal work is common,
proving a client earned money but didn't report it
gets difficult at times.
"One of the headaches you've got is that it's extremely
hard to prove income from the river because of the
lack of records." he said. "Most are most reporting for
He encounters similar problems in dealing with farm
Camobell. a longtime law Mffic.r anH '
Shallotte police chief, believes his work is important?and
that it more than pays for itself in the sums collected
and the reputation of the agency.
"It's the taxpayers' money out there It's money out
of their pockets when people are defrauding welfare." he
In the eight weeks since he began work July 8, Campbell
has worked on cases that involve $29,960.15 in
benefits received by cbents who weren't eligible. Between
July 29 and Aug. 26, his office collected $2,273.50 in
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Last week, he sent out letters concerning $5,594.81 in
Medicaid program overpayments alone.
When questions arise concerning a client's file,
Campbell discusses the matter with the one or more
social workers involved. Then the client is first called in
for a conference with an eligibility specialist.
"If we confirm that the information is true? that
deception or fraud has occurred, we give them two options,"
If it appears the overpayment resulted from an oversight
or a client's accidental failure to report informa
;?r? r:?* ? * ?- *
wwii, uic igcm) in aw u ics iu ivui R out a voluntary repayment
agreement. All funds are to repaid within 36 months
from the time the overpayment occurred, not from when
it was discovered.
Usually the matter is settled during the conference;
if not, the case may be turned over to Campbell for further
Clients who don't agree to a voluntary repayment or
fail to maintain payments, or those who the agency
believes willfully committed fraud, face a possible felony
charge for welfare fraud if the sum owed is $400 or more.
Since the emphasis is on repayment, said Campbell,
plea bargains are common when a case goes to court.
Then, if the money still isn't paid back, the client faces an
active sentence for violation of probation.
"They usually find the money to pay it off," he added.
Welfare fraud of $400 or more is a felony, but with the
emphasis on repayment, plea bargains are common.
Campbell follows the advice of the social services
board and attorney and the district attorney's office in
determining w hether to prosecute a case.
His first case, now being readied for court, originated
in 1978 and involves multiple fraud?a total of $1,151.91
owed to the AKDC and Medicaid programs. Since many
clients receive services from more than one program,
when fraud occurs it often involves more than one program
and more tlmn one caseworker.
A fraud investigation can originate from varied
sources?a call from a concerned citizen; during a
routine case review in which employment, vehicle
registration and other data is cross-checked; or when
another agency working with the same client does some
cross-checking of its own.
Surrounded by paperwork around his own desk,
Campbell added, "Sometimes it takes two years (or the
paperwork to catch up with a client. With Medicaid, it
may take up to 12 months to get a true picture of overpayment
since they have a year in which to tile."
Seventeen of Campbell's 21 years in law enforcement
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FORMER I .A W OFFICER Wayne Campbell pursues clue
the HrunswlckCounty Depnrtmeiil ?( Soetal Services.
were spent ill investigations, including vice anil narcotics.
"Tluit experience has helped me know where to find
the information I need, how to obtain it legally and how to
follow up on leads," he said
It didn't prepare him for the other ludf, the most difficult
half of his new Job: IcurntnK about basic elements
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ICK BEACON, Thursday, September 12, 1985?Page 5-A
l ' ^
~ ' : 2
SlAfl PttOtOM UIUNDIIHI
? ?( a different twist In his work a* fraud Investigator lor
of each social service proKruin, the requirements lor olc
lainlng benefits anil keeping up with the related paperwork
I'idling the inlornuitloii together to uuike a case, he
said, is like piecing together tilts ol a jigsaw puzzle.
"It's it challenge; 1 tike It."
vCH ROAD, SHALLOTTE
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30. 1985 (?l \