Oct 24, 2011
DCFS Investigation Leads to Assistance Fraud Arrests in St. Tammany Parish
"DCFS is committed to thoroughly investigating cases of suspected fraud and abuse within our public assistance programs," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "These funds are intended to provide vital assistance to those who are truly in need, and when we discover abuse within the system, we will work with law enforcement and the courts to hold those who commit fraud accountable and to recover stolen funds."
Zuleika DeCarlo, age 37, of Covington was arrested and charged with Felony Theft for failing to report the father of her children, Walter Wright, as a household member in order to obtain more than $44,000 in benefits between January 2007 and November 2010. Walter Wright also was arrested and charged with Felony Theft for providing falsified verification to DCFS to assist DeCarlo in obtaining ineligible benefits.
DCFS' Fraud and Recovery Unit investigated this case, which was referred by the DCFS Economic Stability office in St. Tammany Parish as a result of a regular review of applications and current cases. Arrests were made by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.
According to Johnson, DCFS seeks to recover the illegally obtained funds by intercepting federal income tax refunds, withholding eligible benefits through recoupment or through administrative or court ordered repayment.
Last fiscal year, DCFS, with the cooperation of local, state and federal officials, recovered more than $2.8 million from individuals who have committed fraud and abuse in federal assistance programs. All are federal monies that are passed through the state for distribution.
To report suspected illegal receipt of public assistance benefits or illegal use of an EBT card, call toll-free 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578) and select option 7 from the main menu. To learn more, visit www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/reportfraud.