Waukesha County: 2 people face charges in FoodShare fraud investigation
WAUKESHA COUNTY — Two people are facing criminal charges in Waukesha County, as a result of a FoodShare fraud investigation conducted by the Department of Health Services’ (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and local partners.
According to the criminal complaint, a Fredonia man is accused of selling his FoodShare “Quest” card to multiple people, including an Oconomowoc restaurant owner.
“Most FoodShare recipients use the benefit as intended, but there continues to be a percentage of people who abuse the system,” said Inspector General Anthony Baize in a statement to FOX6 News. “Each year our experience, along with new technology, allows us to more quickly identify the signs of potentially fraudulent behaviors, so we can act on FoodShare fraud and ensure taxpayer dollars are not being used inappropriately.”
According to the criminal complaint, a Fredonia man claimed benefits for children not living with him, and sold his FoodShare benefits to multiple parties beginning in 2014. He requested 13 replacement cards in 12 months. The investigation revealed many store transactions conducted by other persons, who used his required PIN number to use the card. He is facing five felony counts of knowingly trafficking food stamps, and permanent disqualification from the FoodShare program. (FoodShare recipients are entitled to privacy protection and therefore DHS, as the agency which implements the program, is not naming the individual who has been charged.)
Albert Islami of Oconomowoc faces multiple felony charges of unauthorized use of food stamps. Video surveillance obtained by OIG Trafficking Agent Nicole Housley shows the defendant making purchases using the Fredonia man’s Quest card at locations including Sam’s Club. Islami was the owner of the now-closed Buca Restaurant All Day Eatery and Grill, and the purchases made are consistent with items on the restaurant menu.
Governor Scott Walker created the OIG in October 2011, to improve public assistance program integrity and fraud prevention efforts, increasing the number of state staff working on recipient fraud detection and prevention from one to 23. The state also provides $1,000,000 annually to 10 Fraud Prevention and Investigation Programs (FPIP) consortia and nine tribal agencies across the state to fund local agency investigators, private investigators, or police investigators.
In 2016, the OIG and local partners conducted almost 17,000 Medicaid and FoodShare investigations (16,870), resulting in cost avoidance and overpayment claims of more than $37 million, compared to $26 million in 2015.
In 2016, 1,382 FoodShare recipients were suspended from the program for intentional fraud, compared to 203 in 2012. Of those, 113 cases resulted in criminal prosecution.