UPDATED: Lewiston Mayor Bob MacDonald announced Wednesday that city officials have removed 84 people from the welfare rolls and saved taxpayers more than $150,000 in fraudulent welfare payments. More than half of the individuals included in the investigation will be charged with fraud, according to city officials.
LEWISTON – Lewiston city officials will hold a press conference Wednesday morning concerning an investigation into welfare fraud allegedly committed by local residents, The Maine Wire has learned.
The investigation has found a significant number of welfare fraud cases in Lewiston alone, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulently received public assistance, according to a State House source who asked to remain anonymous.
Michael McGonagle, a Lieutenant in Lewiston’s Criminal Investigations Division, confirmed for The Maine Wire that city officials will hold a press conference tomorrow morning regarding the results of an investigation into alleged welfare fraud.
McGonagle said the investigation had found “several” instances of welfare fraud but would not confirm the number of individuals included in the investigation or the amount of taxpayer dollars fraudulently received.
The city of Lewiston’s announcement comes in the wake of U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack’s February decision to deny Gov. Paul R. LePage’s request to require photographic identification for transactions involving public assistance.
The Governor requested permission to place photo ID on all Electronic Benefit Transer (EBT) cards last year, but his request was denied by the USDA on the grounds that doing so would infringe on the “rights” of EBT card holders and would not prevent fraud. Rather than inform LePage directly of the USDA’s decision, the Department instead leaked this information to Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). The information was then received by the Portland Press Herald, a newspaper owned by Pingree and her husband S. Donald Sussman.
Until now, welfare fraud has been treated largely as a myth — a thing of anecdotes rather than fact.
News of Lewiston’s investigation into welfare fraud will likely spur further debate in Augusta as LePage and state lawmakers attempt rein in Department of Health and Human Services spending, especially spending on welfare defrauders.
By S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter