Target 11 investigates counties with most welfare fraud

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PITTSBURGH - It’s a ranking Pittsburgh probably won’t be proud to claim. Allegheny County had more cases of welfare fraud than any other county in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle obtained the data and he’s spent weeks breaking it all down. 

The population in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is much smaller than Philadelphia, but Allegheny County had nearly three times as many welfare fraud cases.  In all, investigators worked 151 welfare fraud cases in Allegheny county just last year alone. 

“Can we talk to you about these welfare fraud charges?" Earle asked.  

“I don’t have anything to say about that.  I’ve moved on,” Andrew Lee told Earle.

Lee isn’t talking about the welfare fraud charges he’s now facing.   But last year Lee had plenty to say to our camera when he filed a protection from abuse order against Pittsburgh Police Commander Rashall Brackney.

This woman is a loose cannon and shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun," said Lee. "I didn't think she'd take it this far."

A judge ultimately dismissed the protection from abuse order, citing a lack of evidence.   Lee was then charged with filing a false PFA.  He was convicted and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and two years’ probation. 

The welfare fraud charges surfaced during the PFA investigation. 

Investigators says Lee lied on his welfare application, failing to tell them among other things that he owned a cigar shop on the North Side, five rental properties and three cars, according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators says Lee received nearly $8,000 in food stamps and medical assistance during a two year period.

“Well, I just want your side of the story,” said Earle. 

Target 11 obtained the number of welfare fraud cases for the state.  It jumped from 976 total cases last year to 1106 this year, and the dollar amount also went up from $3.6 million to $4 million. 

Allegheny county led the state in the number of cases and the amount of money.

“If there are people defrauding the system do we want to catch them, absolutely.  Do we want to find abuse.  Absolutely, that's part of our mission.  There will never be enough money to meet the needs and there will never be enough especially if there is waste fraud and abuse,” said DPW Secretary Beverly Mackereth.

Target 11 also learned that DPW detected 12,000 welfare cards used out of state, and they’re looking into 2,000 people with multiple replacement cards, and 1,000 stores with questionable food stamp transactions. 

It’s all part of an effort to crack down on welfare fraud.

But state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from Cranberry, tells Target 11 that all of this fraud, waste and abuse shows a broken system in desperate need of a fix.

“The majority of people don't mind seeing people in real need find some assistance, but there are so many abuses in the system.  I’m hoping we can tackle these types of issues and get some help out of the Governor’s Office to do so," said Metcalfe.

As for Andrew Lee, he faces a preliminary hearing on those welfare charges  in January.