A truly pathetic story is blowing up in New Jersey this week.

The ever-widening scandal in which Lakewood residents are being arrested and accused of cheating the public assistance system is a lesson in audacity. If you need a primer on what's going on, here's a story from Dan Alexander. The basics are that a growing number of people are being charged with defrauding the welfare system big-time by lying about how much money they're earning. Authorities say they've been getting Medicaid benefits, SNAP benefits, SSI benefits, HUD benefits, you name it when they most definitely did not qualify.

Sadder yet is many of these people were earning millions of dollars and hid it or lied about it, authorities say. Some owned their own businesses, lived in large homes, yet were receiving food stamps and many other benefits illegally, according to prosecutors.

Saddest of all, the appearance is that many people in Lakewood who have been doing this knew it was illegal. It seems like no mistake in paperwork here. Why do I say this? A report Tuesday night in the Asbury Park Press indicates hundreds of Lakewood residents not yet charged have been scrambling to cover their asses by contacting township leaders, inquiring how they can avoid arrest and get amnesty. Dozens of others have been calling to cancel their public assistance or to update their income information, the report says. One can only conclude from this that they knew all along they were guilty of a crime and they didn't care one bit. Pathetic.

Then there's this quote from Duvi Honig of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce to the Asbury Park Press: “The pressure of the community overhead — especially the (cost of) private schooling is unsustainable. People are forced to find ways to bend the system.”

I was hoping that was taken wildly out of context — and Honig later told New Jersey 101.5 it was. He says he meant loopholes and other legal methods people use to bend the system — and that he wasn't condoning breaking the law. But judging by how many people have been arrested, it sure seems like some people don't mind crossing that line. The prosecutors involved certainly aren't seeing any of this as people using "loopholes." They're seeing crimes.

So we're supposed to accept that because you wanted to send your children to private schools, you think you can break the law?

Meanwhile, the transportation issues where public resources were being used for private schools have severely damaged the public school system in Lakewood. Would it be okay for these families of public school students to cheat the system as well? Certainly sounds like their kids' public schools could use a donation.

The arrogance of millionaires cheating a public welfare system is staggering. Any case that draws a conviction should result in as long a jail sentence as possible with no mercy whatsoever.

Anything short of that will be undeserved coddling.

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