MESA COUNTY, Colo (KKCO) It's a problem that affects every taxpayer.
Welfare fraud abuse is approaching $89,000 so far this year in Mesa County. Compare that to $71,000 in September of 2010. Experts say it's a problem that you can help solve.
"I had a crisis that happened yesterday," says Eric Montgomery, a Mesa County resident. Like many Americans, Montgomery is going through rough times. "I have a lot going on with my son, and my ex, his mom, so things could go a lot better for me," says Montgomery. The 21 year old is looking for work, and gets irritated when people abuse the system. "I don't know why people do it, but I wish people would grow up from it; people that have been here for years and their whole lives and have never left the county or state; and people especially come in from Mexico and stuff like that, and they use the benefits, and just use it for their families," he says.
He's even seen welfare abuse firsthand. "I knew a guy that was doing it and I told him I don't know why you're doing that bro; you come over there, then you bring your family here, and you make all this money, and his family applies for TANIF and all that; but you make $2,000 a week; I don't know why you do it," explains Montgomery.
Mesa County has already seen 160 referrals for welfare fraud this month alone. "Welfare fraud is something that occurs when people intentionally defraud a public assistance program," adds Karen Martsolf, Public Information Officer with the Mesa County Department of Human Services.
The county is taking welfare fraud very seriously. They've launched a campaign called "What Would You Do? You might have noticed one of the billboards in Orchard Mesa.
Officials ask the community to report suspected abuse. "It's difficult to say why we've seen an increase, the referrals really tend to ebb and flow; but we've really been proactive in our outreach efforts," says Martsolf.
And Eric, who isn't abusing the system, says those who are give him and others a bad name. "It's kinda stupid because it ruins it for everyone else, people just need to quit doing their stunts."
The Mesa County Department of Human Services has two welfare fraud investigators and two recovery technicians on staff. Wednesday was the 16th anniversary of President Clinton's welfare reform law.
If you suspect welfare fraud, call the Mesa County Department of Human Services, Welfare Fraud Hotline at (970) 256-2421.