We were always taught never to lie. Whether punished in time out as a child, or punished in jail as adult, the consequences of lying have always been threatening. So, why – when the consequences are so in focus – is it so easy for some to fib? Perhaps it’s the promise of happiness, or the feelings of safety associated with hiding from the truth. Who knows? What’s clear is that lying is easier for some…especially if it’s for a little undeserved government aid.
According to today’s Fraud of the Day from the Oakland Tribune, a California couple is coming to grips with the consequences of lying. The couple, who pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government for child care payments and food stamps, now faces a hefty fine and possible jail time for a scam that milked taxpayers of nearly $180,000 over nine years. The fraudsters at fault made a habit of lying about their marriage, true names, and housing situation to receive child care payments and food stamps, all while the husband was employed by Alameda County Sheriff’s Department as a recreational assistant in a local jail. (He worked at a jail and he still risked getting caught??) Although the scam may have seemed flawless in their eyes, they made some mistakes. An employee of the federal aid program discovered discrepancies in the yearly applications. (Didn’t they learn that a trail of lies always leads to trouble? You’re bound to slip up somewhere!)
After reviewing the case, the judge issued a plea deal, allowing the wife to pay $125,000 to the State Department of Education, before the husband’s sentencing in November. If the money is not paid in full by the time of her husband’s sentencing, the wife will have to serve two years in prison, and her husband will face possible jail time. (That’s certainly an incentive to pay back the money.) No official statement has been made about how the couple was able to continue the fraud for nine years. (Easy – agencies need to invest in public records and data analytics technology to find red flags for fraud!)
Nine years is a long time to tell the same lie. And from the looks of it, little mistakes led the fraudsters to an ultimatum – pay or go to jail. I suppose they couldn’t lie their way out of this one.