Authorities have launched welfare fraud amnesty program for the people to confess abuse of Medicaid benefits, after 26 arrests in the community of Lakewood.
The Office of the State Comptroller, Medicaid Fraud Division said: the program will start Tuesday and run for the next 3 months. Under the “Ocean County Recipient Voluntary Disclosure Program,” people can repay benefits they received while ineligible, plus additionally a civil penalty. NBC-New York reported.
They will also have to agree not to accept Medicaid for the term of one year. But if people meet all the program requirements, the comptroller’s office will not refer them for prosecution, and the prosecutor said it would not pursue charges. At this moment, the program is open only to residents of Ocean County who already received Medicaid and don’t settled yet with the comptroller’s office and are not already facing criminal charges.
A couple of months ago, federal authorities charged 14 people from the town Lakewood in New Jersey, including a prominent local rabbi and a special-needs school leader, with a laundry list of fraud counts.
The charges are based on the allegation that they all failed to report or otherwise concealed significant income that would have made them ineligible for the assistance programs in which they enrolled. In total, federal prosecutors have said the families collected about $2.4 million in benefits.
The criminal charges shook Lakewood community, whose population tripled since 1980 as the Orthodox Jewish population there surged. The town is now one of largest in the New Jersey as a result.
The newspaper Asbury Park Press has reported that hundreds of Lakewood residents contacted city officials after the arrests, seeking amnesty or guidance on whether they had broken the law. The Lakewood Vaad, a council of Orthodox religious leaders and businessmen, supports the amnesty program, the newspaper reported.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, in a blog post, pushed back against criticism of the welfare fraud amnesty and complaints it was not acting aggressively enough to pursue more fraud cases in the city. “Regarding the Amnesty program that the New Jersey State Comptroller’s Office initiated: The amnesty program came from them. We have no authority to mandate or monitor how a state agency does business,” the office said.