Pathetic that Lakewood welfare cheats get to keep half (Opinion)
Rarely has something made me this angry. Remember the old story about so many families in Lakewood cheating Medicaid? Dozens of arrests were made after it was found that these people were gaming the system. A number of them had earned millions of dollars and yet cheated welfare anyway. This town was warned. Quite some time before any arrests happened the Attorney General's office held a public meeting in town that was heavily attended with a warning. We know what you're doing, and you all need to stop.
The hubris here is insane. The cheating continued, the arrests were finally made, then the threat of more arrests suddenly stopped when the government announced an amnesty program. They didn't want to call it amnesty but it's exactly what it was. Come forward before we arrest you and we'll do nothing to you if you make full restitution. These were the words of State Comptroller Phillip Degnan. Full restitution.
What did we find out last week? One guy who bought a half million dollar home just days before applying for amnesty was allowed to go free by repaying only half. He stole $48,000 by gaming the system and only had to repay $24,000 and a $1,000 fine. So what was the message here? It would have been bad enough if the message had been cheat, steal, lie, and you'll only have to give it all back if caught with nothing happening to you. This message is so much worse. Cheat, steal, lie, and then get to keep half of what you stole and we'll do nothing to you. This is an incentive to steal.
So the worry of course became whether this Newhouse deal was one-of-a-kind, or were others getting a deal where they got to keep money? Turns out many others.
It's come out in a report released Friday that collectively of the $4.85 million taken only $2.25 million is being returned. In other words, these 159 families in the amnesty program together are keeping $2.6 million of what they stole from the system. And nothing is going to happen to them. That works out to an average of $14,150.94 per person. How is this okay?
Degnan should resign. He lied to the public when he announced the amnesty program would include full restitution. And he's played right into the hands of a group of people known for their political gamesmanship. Shame on all of them. Sure, Degnan will make the argument that the cheating was so widespread they didn't have the resources to prosecute everybody. Many other types of crimes are widespread. I don't see amnesty being offered. I certainly don't see a bank robber being arrested and told he can go home and keep half. This is an absolute travesty of justice and with a progressive like Gov. Murphy at the helm of it all you can bet not a damn thing will be done about it. Guess here in Jersey it's not what you stole it's who you know. I'm ashamed of my home state.
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