In Lakewood welfare fraud, NJ taxpayers are the real victims
Our phones blew up Wednesday morning with all the talk about members of the the Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community coming under fire after a couple dozen indictments for Medicaid and other fraud.
We started reporting on the whole sordid mess in June and it's still a major topic. After 26 people were hauled in for stealing government benefits, there are reports that many other people potentially are still doing the same thing.
The update on the story is that the State of NJ has offered what many are calling "amnesty." I spoke to the Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Corranato today and he reaffirmed that the prosecutions are proceeding against those already arrested and charged. He went on to discuss the fact that in a legal sense, the state of New Jersey is the victim of the crime and it's the state's prerogative to report the theft of government resources as a crime. Of course, the real victims in this case are the taxpayers of New Jersey who are footing the bill for fraud and waste.
A couple things are important to keep in mind. First, it's perfectly acceptable for the state to try to expose additional fraud by asking people to come forward to face a fine instead of prosecution. Who knows how many millions of your dollars will be saved when people actually do come forward. So that's a potential win for the taxpayers. And for those angry at the "leniency," they should check the history of law enforcement in the modern world — pre-trial intervention, gun buybacks and settlements with reimbursement from tax cheats. The attack on the plan from the state is smart and appropriate.
Some of the calls for retribution seem to expose an underlying antisemitism, and that should not be tolerated. The people who are painting the entire community in Lakewood with the same color would be doing the equivalent of blaming all minorities in a crimeridden city for violence. It's not accurate and crosses the line into bigotry.
Beyond the issue of this specific case, there's the idea from one member of Congress, Tom MacArthur, who spoke to me on the show Wednesday about the extension of the program of Medicare beyond it's original intent under the last presidential administration.
In addition to the fact the government has gone through a massive health care expansion yet still so many people that need help aren't getting it, there's the sheer incompetence of the current administration in Trenton. How many years has this fraud been going on? How many millions have been stolen? Who was watching the store? Is there anyone in Trenton capable of actually managing the people money? Yet another colossal failure of the Christie Administration to make New Jersey affordable and strong.
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