TOPEKA – The Kansas Department for Children and Families’ (DCF) Anti-Fraud Unit works to aggressively investigate, detect, prevent and prosecute welfare recipient fraud in all public assistance programs administered by DCF, including cash assistance, food assistance, child care assistance and utility assistance. Last week, the unit’s hard work paid off again. On Thursday, Aug. 24, Stephanie Hessling of Clay County, was found guilty of defrauding the State of more than $50,000 worth of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits after she pleaded no contest. SNAP is also known as food assistance.
DCF Special Investigator Laura Lindsey led the investigation on the Hessling’s case. As a special investigator, some of her duties include speaking to employers, neighbors, co-workers or anyone else with knowledge of the accused person. She also examines documents, such as bank records and wages. Lindsey says working fraud cases is gratifying, especially when it leads to a conviction.
“There is only so much money available for government-funded programs, such as food and cash assistance,” said Lindsey. “Assuring that these resources are in fact given to Kansans in need, versus those who are misrepresenting their situations for personal gain, is very important to me.”
In State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2017, the Anti-Fraud Unit obtained more than 249 fraud judgments in the SNAP program. These DCF fraud findings resulted in more than $1.4 million in orders of restitution to the State. Additionally, in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2014, Kansas ranked second in the nation in the number of SNAP judgments obtained. Then again in FFY 2015, Kansas ranked third nationwide in the number of SNAP judgments. FFY 2016 and FFY 2017 rankings are not currently available.
“Protecting the integrity of our public assistance programs is a priority for this Administration, and I am proud of the diligent efforts of our Anti-Fraud Unit,” said DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore. “I especially want to commend Special Investigator Laura Lindsey for her efforts to end this specific crime in Clay County.”
In July, the Anti-Fraud Unit strengthened its efforts to combat welfare benefits by offering an online submission form to report suspected incidents of fraud. Those who suspect benefits fraud are encouraged to fill out the “Fraud Report Form” online at www.dcf.ks.gov. You can also call 800-432-3913. Those who report fraud may remain anonymous.