PORTLAND (WGME) – The state of Maine is investigating hundreds of cases of possible welfare fraud.
Some have already been turned over to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.
The state Department of Health and Human Services says it got more than 1,100 calls and allegations of potential welfare fraud last year.
Most of them were found to be legitimate and processed for further review and investigation.
DHHS is required by law to report to the media and public welfare related statistics for MaineCare, temporary assistance for needy families, food stamps and general assistance.
Issues of fraud can include lying about income, falsifying documents, stealing from the elderly or using a deceased relative's benefits.
So far, investigators sent 71 cases to prosecutors.
Marc Malon, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, told CBS 13 more than $700,000 in restitution was ordered last year.
Malon said the Office of the Attorney General only had one prosecutor working on welfare fraud in 2018 because even though the legislature allocated money to add another position, former Gov. LePage didn't sign the financial order.
The position for another welfare fraud prosecutor has now been posted and applications are being accepted.
The Office of Attorney General takes fraud seriously and is attentive to all matters referred to our office. With the addition of another staff position focused on this issue we will be able to do even more in 2019 to ensure that fraud is addressed and money is returned to Maine taxpayers.
DHHS says it's committed to improving the integrity of the state's welfare programs, and encourages the public to report suspected fraud.