"The Social Security Administration operates under a court order that they have to issue emergency checks to a person who requests one even if they suspect that person may be lying," the special agent in charge of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, Bill Cotter explained.
It is that policy of the federal government--designed to be sure poor people aren't left without money--that's left the government nearly a million dollars short in the western part of the state of Michigan.
Their latest audit found 587 people in West Michigan they say asked for emergency checks from social security even after they'd already cashed a regular one. Several did the same, prosecutors say, at housing commissions and the Department of Human Services. 201 people in Eaton and Ingham counties are accused.
"They are on notice," Doug Lloyd, an assistant prosecutor in Eaton County explained.
These cases will be handled by Eaton County's Economic Crimes Unit--a unit that won't necessarily issue charges. They'll first offer them a chance to pay the government--with penalties.
"]If they do that, the case won't be issued," Lloyd says.
In preliminary interviews, investigators say 90-95 percent of the people accused have confessed.