TOPEKA – Kansas Department of Social and
Rehabilitation Services (SRS) Secretary Rob Siedlecki announced Monday that
Attorney General Derek Schmidt has appointed SRS attorney Ken Thompson as a
Special Assistant Attorney General with the authority to criminally prosecute
cases of benefits fraud in the State of Kansas. He will work under the
supervision of the Deputy Attorney General of the Criminal Litigation Division.
Thompson is the head of SRS’ anti-fraud initiative. He took
the oath of office on November 17.
“SRS is committed to identifying and prosecuting those who
take advantage of the taxpayers’ generosity and collect public benefits to which
they are not entitled,” Secretary Siedlecki said. “Attorney General Schmidt has
granted Ken Thompson prosecutorial authority that will allow SRS to go after
those who attempt to cheat the system criminally as well as civilly.”
Until this appointment, prosecution of benefits fraud
historically had been left to county district attorneys, who often had too much
other crime on their plates to focus on welfare fraud. Previously, SRS had the
authority to pursue the perpetrators of welfare fraud civilly, but not
In his appointment letter, Attorney General Schmidt wrote,
“This Oath of Office reflects our common promise to the people of Kansas to
perform our duties and responsibilities to protect those truths articulated in
our nation’s and state’s constitutions.”
In August Secretary Siedlecki
named Thompson the Director of Fraud Investigations for SRS, reactivating an SRS
program that had been allowed to lapse for several years. Thompson is an
experienced prosecutor who earlier served as regional attorney for SRS’
11-county Southeast Region, working out of the Chanute office. He is also a
Colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Thompson will add prosecutorial responsibility to his duties
in addition to leading and coordinating SRS efforts to combat fraud in all
programs the department administers. He works closely with SRS Chief Legal
Counsel Bob Corkins.
A preliminary examination of current SRS clients indicated
that the agency may be improperly paying benefits to more than 300 deceased
persons and 260 incarcerated individuals; thousands of other types of cases
suggest a high probably of fraud. This analysis indicates possible fraudulent
benefits payments in excess of $22 million made by the department.
One enforcement program currently being expanded is what is
known as the Fleeing Felon program. This
program matches law enforcement agencies’ felony fugitive files with SRS’ SNAP
(food stamps) recipient records, allowing law enforcement officers to locate and
apprehend fugitives who also are receiving benefits illegally. Incarceration or
outstanding felony arrest warrants are automatic disqualifiers for public
Law enforcement agencies provide SRS with a monthly list of
fugitive felons, persons for whom felony arrest warrants have been issued.
Statewide, several hundred names per month appear on the
lists. SRS, beginning with a few select Kansas counties, collaborates with law
enforcement to improve data matches and to plan enforcement actions. Other
counties have inquired about being added to the program.
An operation in one of Kansas’ larger counties recently
worked a felon cross match of 95 separate felony warrants (not individuals) with
an estimated program cost savings of $74,734 for SRS.