U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said that people who steal from government programs for the needy disgust him, which is great to hear.
Most taxpayers are disgusted not only by such thefts but by government officials who know about the problem but do little or nothing to stop it. Typically, the government has plenty of workers to pass out money but has little interest in ensuring that the money is used as intended.
Fortunately Wigginton is aggressively attacking this problem as he is so many others. Last week he filed criminal charges involving alleged thefts of unemployment benefits. Also last week, federal agents raided two East St. Louis stores as part of an investigation of suspected food stamp trafficking.
Trading food stamps for a lesser amount of cash rips off the taxpayers. In a Washington Park case in 2010, the government estimated that the manager stole $1.6 million over a four-year period. And it usually means that children do not have as much food on their plates.
Regarding the unemployment scams, 19 people were indicted for allegedly stealing unemployment benefits worth between $11,000 and $40,000 each. Two of the people were serving time while collecting benefits.
Aggressive prosecutions won't stop all government benefits fraud, but it will slow it down. That needs to happen all the time, but particularly now when the needs are so great and programs are stretched beyond their limits.