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Newsroom SRS receives special prosecutor status to combat fraud

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 criminally.

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 assistance.   

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.