WCDJFS and BRU: fighting back against fraud

WCDJFS and BRU: fighting back against fraud
Dan Starcher

The Wayne County commissioners recognize the hard work of Wayne County Department of Job & Family Services Director Richard Owens, left, benefits recovery supervisor Sherry Vitallo and their team with a proclamation for their efforts in the fight against benefits fraud.


In today’s society fraud is a crime that erodes the fabric and trust in the country’s governmental institutions. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent the theft of assets earmarked for those in desperate need.

“Someone defrauding the system hurts not only the taxpayer, but also the reputation of the vulnerable in our community who legitimately need assistance,” Director Richard Owens of the Wayne County Department of Job & Family Services said. “It’s a problem that’s growing in scope. Our agency has increased recoupment by $50,000 from just two years ago.”

In 2023 the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services disbursed more than $4 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and more than $200 million in Ohio Works First cash assistance. Cases where individuals mislead caseworkers or provide false information on these types of benefit applications are taken very seriously.

In the fight against fraud, the Benefits Recovery Unit leverages technology to stay one step ahead of fraudsters.

The BRU team operates under the WCDJFS and has investigated over 800 allegations of overissued benefits. The department identified approximately 160 instances where benefits needed to be recouped, resulting in more than $306,000 in collections. These efforts routinely place Wayne County in the top 10 metrics measured by the state including being third in the state with $274,363.43 in SNAP benefits recovery.

The BRU’s impact goes far beyond numbers. They are the front line of fraud detection, working behind the scenes to ensure the benefits system is safe and secure for those who need it most. By taking a proactive and aggressive approach to fraud detection, the BRU is helping to restore trust and confidence.

Applicants and recipients of public assistance programs are encouraged to report their circumstances accurately and timely to avoid facing potential criminal charges, program disqualification and repayment of benefits issued improperly. Residents of Wayne County may report suspected public assistance fraud by calling 330-287-5800 and selecting option eight or by going to www.jfs.ohio.gov/fraud.

Dan Starcher is the public communications coordinator for Wayne County.

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