State mum after woman admits to abusing Illinois Link card program
By (BI) Jack Bilbo
(Is This Why We're Broke?) -- An Illinois woman contacted News 4’s Chris Nagus to say she's guilty of welfare fraud and no one from the state of Illinois will take her seriously.
News 4 took it seriously, and opened an investigation and it looks like this one is going to end with some real consequences.
Sherrie Rapp openly admits she broke the law. She says for several months during 2011 she paid her neighbors $100 and in return they would allow her to swipe their Illinois Link card for $200 worth of groceries.
Rapp says her neighbors would use the cash for essentials like alcohol and cigarettes.
She told us “this went on repeatedly.”
Rapp has her own Link card, but since she's also collecting a disability check, she only gets a few dollars on her card. She says her neighbors had close to $1,000 a month loaded on their card but they needed cash. The arrangement worked out great until they had a falling out. Rapp says she reported the fraud to her local public aid office, but nobody wanted to investigate.
“Our local office said I didn't hear that” said Rapp.
So News 4’s Chris Nagus went down to that public aid office in Marion County but they can't talk about specific cases. Rapp says she also tried calling the Illinois welfare fraud hotline but couldn't get through.
Chris Nagus also tried, and sure enough he got a recording saying “there is nobody here to take your call, goodbye.” That happened on several occasions over the last month and there was no way to even leave a message.
Chris Nagus then confronted Rapp’s neighbors. They told him “she is trying to get me in any trouble she can.”
One of the neighbors, Sherrod Logue, is no stranger to trouble and has an extensive criminal past.
Rapp says she was buying the food stamps from Logue’s ex-wife, but says all of them were well aware of the scheme.
The Marion County Sheriff tells News 4 these families are well known to law enforcement.
A few years ago, Rapp stabbed her husband, and right after our crews left the neighborhood Logue got arrested for failing to appear on a DUI. Together they don't have much credibility but it made Chris Nagus wonder why no one was investigating potential fraud.
He called various state and federal agencies along with one Illinois lawmaker.
State Representative Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, proposed legislation that would require Link cards to have the recipient’s photo on the card. “I found it to be an easy way to cut down on fraud” said Rose. He says cases like this one are reason why.
Rose told us he plans “on calling the inspector general and reporting this one, this is pretty amazing.” So far his photo ID bill for Link cars is stalled in an Illinois State Senate committee.
Just last week, Rapp told News 4 she got a letter from the Office of Inspector General, and she was forced to return the public aid office to answer questions about the fraud accusation.
Now she is in danger of having her benefits suspended.
According to the state, 24 people were prosecuted last year in Illinois for welfare fraud.
That's a slight drop from the year before. Although this potential fraud only adds up to a few hundred dollars it clearly highlights some of the challenges involved with reporting fraud.
If you have a scam, rip-off or government waste project you want Chris Nagus to know about you can leave him a message on his KMOV Facebook page.