arrested in welfare fraud sting in county
Federal and state officials
delivered a serious message to welfare recipients on
Thursday: steal from the government and you'll be taken
A sting spearheaded by the U.S Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) netted 29 arrests at the Englewood Apartments
on Nov. 6.
According to Platte County
Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, the 29 residents of the apartment
complex, located near I-29 and Waukomis Drive in Platte
County, were involved in serious food stamp, Section
8 housing assistance and other types of welfare fraud.
In court papers filed by
the prosecution, HUD investigators allege that residents
of the Englewood Apartments engaged in a pattern of
falsifying income statements so that they could receive
larger living subsidies. One of the defendants allegedly
defrauding the government of $5,260, a class C felony
that could result in a seven year prison sentence.
The investigation began
when Englewood Apartment owners, AIMCO Capital, contacted
authorities with a suspected Section 8 fraud claim.
Agents from HUD and the Missouri Department of Social
Services then interviewed residents at 43 apartments
on July 15, which ultimately culminated in the 29 arrests.
In addition to the fraud
arrests, nine others were arrested on outstanding warrants
on unrelated charges.
Zahnd called the operation
a "tremendous, tremendous success," and said
the estimated savings based on just the fraud losses
alone exceeded $87,000.
"If you multiply that
out over the years they were likely to have been there,
the amount we're going to be saving will be many fold,"
Kenneth Donohue, inspector
general for HUD, told The Landmark he personally observed
the operation and intended to use the Platte County
case as a model for similar efforts around the nation.
Donohue, appointed to the position by President Bush
in July 2001, said the federal government loses more
than $2 billion per year in Section 8 fraud.
"President Bush has
made this a focal point of his domestic presidential
agenda," Donohue said, later adding that it was
"important for people to know that we will investigate,
and refer for prosecution, any person involved in rental
Zahnd told reporters that
his office was eager to handle such prosecutions.
"In these times of
tight state and federal budgets, those who legitimately
qualify for public assistance deserve to continue receiving
it," Zahnd said. "But those who try to defraud
the government steal from all taxpayers and make it
more difficult to provide assistance for those who are
truly in need.
Other agencies involved
in the sting included the U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the
U.S. Social Security Administration, the Missouri Division
of Legal Services, the Missouri Highway Patrol, the
Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, the Platte
County Sheriff's Department and Zahnd's office.
In total, more than 60
agents from the federal and state level were involved
in the operation.