ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A News 4 investigation into food stamp fraud is getting noticed by Illinois lawmakers. And now it’s getting results.
Months ago News 4 noticed the state’s fraud reporting hotline would go directly to a female voice saying nobody could help. The call would then hang up.
Now the state is investigating after News 4 features a woman who tried to turn herself in for fraud, but couldn’t get through on the phone or in person.
Knowing there could be consequences, Illinois resident Sheri Rapp said on camera she broke the law.
She says she tried reporting the fraud to someone at the Marion County Public Aid Office, but nobody would investigate.
News 4 learned the state’s inspector general went to that office following News 4’s report to find out why Rapp’s claim wasn’t investigated.
As for the state’s taxpayer-funded hotline, that seems to lead nowhere.
After News 4 pointed out the problem to Illinois State Rep. Chapin Rose, his office conducted its own investigation.
“We made 21 different phone calls in addition to the one I made at the beginning and the one I made at the end and not one time has anyone ever picked up at this so-called fraud hotline,” said Rose.
Rose says the state department of human services blames budget cuts for the problem. The state claims 12 people are there to answer calls, but News 4 could never reach them.
“They’ll come back and say, ‘oh, budget cuts...We don’t have the manpower,” said Rose. “Can you imagine how many staff members you can hire if you just crack down on 20 percent of this fraud?”
Now the state’s inspector general is trying to figure out why nobody answered News 4’s calls or Rep. Rose’s calls.
In the meantime, they have set up an online system to report suspected welfare fraud.