More Massive Government Entitlement Fraud…Yawn!

February 12, 2013 in Abuse of Power, Deval Patrick, Food Stamp, Fraud, MA, MA Political Machine, Our Dear Leader, Political Machine, President Obama, Redistribution of Wealth, Socialism, Taxachusetts, Welfare, Welfare Fraud, White House Fraud

liquor1What does MA and the Federal Government have in common? The answer is Massive Entitlement Fraud.  The well oiled Progressive Deval Patrick Entitlement machine knows that votes cost and what is better than purchasing votes with Other Peoples Money, or  OPM. Deval is following our Dear Leader in the White House’s lead in insuring that reforms are blocked and vetoed lest they interfere with the quid pro quo  of votes for entitlements.  “According to the Boston Herald, which first reported the veto, the governor berated the legislature’s stab at banning the purchase of specific items like manicures, tattoos, guns, porn, body piercings, jewelry, and bail by saying the move was political grandstanding” at a time when such reforms are already on track elsewhere.

Recently, EBT Fraud beagle,  Shauna O’Connell R Taunton,  reported that the  number of missing  EBT Card cheats had risen  from 17,000 a couple of months ago to 47,000 after an internal investigation.  If we assume that the 47,000 received the average family monthly stipend of $456,  then a measly $257.2M in fraud was skimmed from MA taxpayers.

“Although selling food stamps, known as trafficking, is a federal offense, Massachusetts remains one of the few states without a specific law allowing local authorities to investigate and prosecute retailers who traffic in food stamps. That loophole has made it difficult for local authorities to clamp down on retail traffickers, stores willing to pay recipients half the face value for every dollar they exchange.”

While Deval stonewalls and claims that Welfare Fraud enforcement is difficult at best,  ME has been ramping up its investigations and prosecutions and cracking down on  Welfare Fraud. “[ME]Department of Health and Human Service investigators are better trained. Local police are assisting on more cases. And state prosecutors are devoting more time and resources to putting behind bars people who rip off taxpayers’ money.”

At the Federal level, Our Dear Leader has been ramping up the “Obamaphone” giveaways. While we can’t place the blame on Obama for initiating the program, hats off to Bush 43 for initiating this technological welfare fraud program. In 2008,  $819 Million  was collected from a  tax imposed on every land line telephone subscriber’s bill.  Just another SMART Growth use of   OPM to pay for FRAUD. Last year, since it was a presidential re-election year, Our Dear Leader accelerated the  “Obamaphone Smart Growth” program so that a mere $2.2 Billion was confiscated from “producers”. By the way,  we lucked out. Only “… 41% of their more than six million”  “Obamaphone”  recipients turned out to be fraudulently obtained.

The Wall Street Journal,

Updated February 11, 2013, 9:51 p.m. ET

Millions Improperly Claimed U.S. Phone Subsidies

By SPENCER E. ANTE

The U.S. government spent about $2.2 billion last year to provide phones to low-income Americans, but a Wall Street Journal review of the program shows that a large number of those who received the phones haven’t proved they are eligible to receive them.

The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren’t cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer. Payouts under the program have shot up from $819 million in 2008, as more wireless carriers have persuaded regulators to let them offer the service.

Suspecting that many of the new subscribers were ineligible, the Federal Communications Commission tightened the rules last year and required carriers to verify that existing subscribers were eligible. The agency estimated 15% of users would be weeded out, but far more were dropped.

Carriors

A review of five top recipients of Lifeline support conducted by the FCC for the Journal showed that 41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification.

The carriers—AT&T T -0.11% Inc.; Telrite Corp.; Tag Mobile USA; Verizon Communications VZ -0.07% Inc.; and the Virgin Mobile USA unit of Sprint NextelCorp. S +0.35% —accounted for 34% of total Lifeline subscribers last May. Two of the other largest providers, TracFone Wireless Inc. and Nexus Communications Inc., asked the FCC to keep their counts confidential. Results for the full program weren’t available.

The program is open to people who meet federal poverty guidelines or are on food stamps, Medicaid or other assistance programs, and only one Lifeline subscriber is allowed per household.

The program, which is administered by the nonprofit Universal Service Administrative Co., has grown rapidly as wireless carriers persuaded regulators to let people use the program for cellphone service. It pays carriers $9.25 a customer per month toward free or discounted wireless service.

Americans pay an average of $2.50 a month per household to fund a number of subsidized communications programs, including Lifeline.

For the carriers, the program is a chance for them to sign up more subscribers and make a small profit, plus more money if customers go over their small initial allotment and need to buy more minutes or text messages. Carriers can set prices for their Lifeline subscribers as the companies wish.

Until last year, FCC rules didn’t require carriers to certify to the FCC that subscribers were eligible. Consumers could self-certify, and in many states documentation wasn’t required.

Carriers said many of the disqualified subscribers simply didn’t reply when asked to prove their eligibility. They also said the FCC rules on self-certification, and the absence of a national database of participants, made it hard to keep ineligible people from signing up.

The FCC said it is investigating allegations that some Lifeline providers violated the rules, though it declined to comment on that probe. Carriers that don’t properly confirm eligibility can be fined up to $150,000 for each violation for each day of a continuing violation, up to a maximum of $1.5 million. In egregious cases, a carrier could lose its ability to participate in the program.

Telrite said it confirms Lifeline eligibility but said it had been difficult to verify the one-phone-per-household rule.

A Verizon spokesman said the “vast majority” of the subscribers removed from its rolls didn’t respond to eligibility checks. While Sprint found that some of its subscribers were no longer eligible, it, too, found that many others didn’t respond, a person familiar with the carrier’s operations said.

AT&T hadn’t detected the ineligible subscribers because customers self-certified under old rules and because some states required the company to provide Lifeline service to people enrolled in certain state assistance programs, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking.

Tag Mobile didn’t respond to requests for comment.

TracFone Chief Executive F.J. Pollak declined to say how many customers his company shed. Nexus Communications didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Two years ago General Communication Inc. GNCMA +0.37% paid more than $1.5 million to settle allegations that Alaska DigiTel LLC, an Alaskan company it owns, submitted false claims to the FCC for more than four years. General Communication said the alleged misuse occurred before the company took day-to-day control of Alaska DigiTel.

Lifeline users have been a source of subscriber growth in the otherwise saturated U.S. market and helped fuel the expansion of companies like TracFone, now the fifth-largest U.S. wireless carrier.

The FCC until last year allowed consumers to self-certify, without requiring documentation, that they met federal poverty guidelines. Subscribers didn’t have to recertify once they were enrolled in the program, and there were few checks on whether households signed up for more than one cellphone.

“The program rules we inherited were designed for the age of the rotary phone and failed to protect the program from abuse,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.

The agency pushed through new rules last year, requiring documentation when a Lifeline customer signs up. Consumers also must certify that no one else in their households is using the program. Carriers now have to check a state or federal social-service database to confirm eligibility and must reverify eligibility every year.

Carriers were required by Jan. 31 to report the number of subscribers they had removed from Lifeline as of the end of last year. The data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal came from those reports.

The FCC said new verification procedures saved nearly $214 million last year, and projected total savings over the next three years would reach $2 billion. Disbursements under the program began to drop in the third quarter after 12 consecutive quarters of increases.

Write to Spencer E. Ante at spencer.ante@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared February 12, 2013, on page A1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Millions Improperly Claimed U.S. Phone Subsidies.

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MA State Reps Lyons & Lombardo Call for Transparency and Accountability for Individual Benefits

February 3, 2013 in Accountability, Fraud, MA, Transparency

Jim LyonsJanuary 31, 2013  978-362-3290 BOSTON, MA – Representatives Marc Lombardo (Billerica) and James (Jim) Lyons (Andover) today announced that they have proposed legislation that calls for transparency and accountability for the expenditures paid for by the hardworking taxpayers and businesses of the Commonwealth. Lombardo and Lyons filed 4 bills recently that would provide greater detail on how taxpayer dollars are being spent in the Commonwealth, as well as ensuring greater accountability for those dollars.  House Docket 3174 would require the Administration to file a report that would detail the total amount of the state budget that is being used to fund individual, family, and other benefits and expenditures and the residency and eligibility status of the individuals receiving these benefits. House Docket 3176 would require the administration to file a report that would detail the amount of money being spent through the Health Safety net and the residency and eligibility status of the individuals receiving this benefit. An Act Relative to Proof of Residency, HD2911, would bar self-declaration of residency from being accepted as a valid form of proof of residency for people seeking taxpayer-funded individual benefits from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Finally, House Docket 3293 would restrict all public benefits to only citizens and legal-residents of the Commonwealth as defined by federal law. “We are trying to find out where the taxpayer’s dollars are being spent and who is receiving benefits,” said Representative Lombardo.  “In light of the Inspector General’s recent report that found $25 Million in welfare abuse, it appears our legislation not only make sense, but is absolutely needed. The lack of oversight throughout the Patrick Administration and state government is nothing short of shocking and is a result of, at best, incompetence, or at worst, the administration willfully ignoring the law to advance an agenda.” Representative Lyons added, “Before the Governor asks the hardworking and struggling families and businesses of the Commonwealth for more tax dollars, we should know where every penny is being spent in our state budget. We need to ensure that individuals and families who play by the rules and need help are the ones receiving benefits, and those who do not play by the rules do not receive tax dollars from the hardworking taxpayers of Massachusetts.” Lyons and Lombardo noted the importance of ensuring the proper and efficient use of every tax dollar, particularly as the Governor is seeking massive tax increases. “We need reform in state government, not unending tax hikes,” said Lyons. “Every day news reports chronicle the scandals in the Administration’s drug labs, lack of oversight of pharmaceutical manufacturing, and political job hires.  It’s time to put a halt to these failures.” ###