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County employees to be arrested for fraud

December 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Officials in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office are preparing to arrest employees of the county's in-home care program involved in more than 700 cases of alleged fraud. Investigations by a grand jury and the state Department of Health Care Services have turned up widespread scams, officials said.

"I think the extent of the fraud is greater than anyone ever realized," James Baker, assistant head deputy in the Welfare Fraud Division of the District Attorney's office, told the Daily News Saturday.

Baker said officials in the Department of Public Social Services are re- examining the whole in-home care program and protocols.

"They have started an internal review of all IHSS and DPSS employees (involved)," he told the Daily News.

The number of county residents receiving in-home care has doubled to 174,000 in the past decade, and the $1.6 billion program is now rife with fraud, officials report.

"It's heartbreaking to hear situations where employees have done things they shouldn't have and misused the program," County Social Services Director Philip Browning told the Daily News. "I personally don't believe we have very many employees who are abusing the system, but when we do find these individuals, we want to take every disciplinary action possible and prosecute them to the fullest extent."

The department has 14,000 employees.