Cracking down on Bridge Card fraud

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - For the first time the state is devoting new resources to finding Bridge Card fraud and newly released numbers show it is finally paying off.

The Newschannel 3 I-Team looked at what's working and how much money it's saving the state.

DHS Agent Felice Bond has found you never know where you'll find people committing Bridge Card Fraud. Like in the case she investigated last week in an upscale Byron Center neighborhood.

She says in this case, a man pays an $1,800 dollar a month mortgage payment and has four kids in private school, but claims to have next to no income. He's been receiving $1,000 a month in Bridge Card assistance, plus more than $2,000 in Medicaid.

"So this is why I'm here, to stop this from happening, because this is money, $3,500 a month, that should be available for people who really need it," says Bond.

But now she says he'll have to pay back the money which he's been getting for four years.

It's because there are more inspectors like Felice out on the streets, 30 more statewide, this has been the most successful year ever for DHS finding Bridge Card abuse.

And there's also its new policy in West Michigan called "front end checks," checking recipient's applications before benefits start, something it never used to do.

"So it's easier to catch it before it even goes out the door, so that's my goal trying to save the constituents in Michigan money before it even goes out the door," says Bond.

New numbers the I-Team obtained show front end checks alone have saved the state $70 million. Program disqualifications are up 98%, saving $14 million.

In all this year the DHS Office of Inspector General caught more than $100 million in fraud.

"We're trying to leverage the resources that we have through technology and increased staffing to improve the integrity of these programs and increase the public's confidence in these programs," says Inspector General Al Kimichik.

And with more agents like her in the field, Felice Bond says word is getting out.

"They know that we're out there now, so people are more likely to be forthcoming when they're doing the applications or recertifications...because they know now agents are out there knocking on doors and checking things out," says Bond.